Late red card changes everything for Iran, Wales – and USMNT

AL RAYYAN, Qatar – Iranian substitutes Roozbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian broke Wales’ heart from the group with thrilling injury-time goals in a dramatic 2-0 win on Friday that will have a major impact on United States hopes B to come out.

While a draw would probably have been the best possible outcome for the US, Iran’s win is a second-best scenario, giving the Americans an excellent chance of qualifying with a win – either later on Friday against England (2pm ET on FOX and the FOX Sports App) or Tuesday in the group stage final against Iran.

Breakdown of United States Advancement Opportunities

Breakdown of United States Advancement Opportunities

The FIFA World Cup Now crew take a look at the Group B standings following Iran’s win over Wales. The United States controls its own destiny with a win or a draw against England.

It looked like the Americans would get their hoped-for tie in the early game at the Ahmad bin Ali Stadium until dramatic late goals from Chesmi and Rezaeian – in the eighth and eleventh minutes of added time – turned the competition after the Welsh goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was shown the red card in the closing stages.

The wild finish brought tears to the round.

Iran’s trip was deeply emotional as its own supporters booed the national anthem before the game in protest at their country’s ruling regime.

And Wales, so strong in the second half of Monday’s 1-1 game against the United States, had several players with their heads in their shirts as their campaign reached a state of desperation.

Iran secures a 2-0 win

Iran secures a 2-0 win

Iran celebrate an incredible last-minute win against Wales with goals from substitutes Roozbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian.

Hennessey’s firing changed everything in many ways. Even though Iran were the much stronger side after the break, it looked like the game was headed for a stalemate.

But then Hennessey charged out of his area to try to clear a long ball forward, missing his clearance and colliding with advancing striker Mehdi Taremi. After initially being issued a yellow card, a VAR review changed the decision, downgrading it to an outright dismissal.

Following the results of Monday’s opening round of Group B games, a particular pecking order of outcomes emerged most favorable for Gregg Berhalter’s US squad from that game.

A draw – especially one with no goals – was at the top of that pile. A win against Iran would have been the second option, however, and the USA now know that a win against England at the Al Bayt Stadium will put them clear at the top of the group.

A draw with England would imply a clear last-game requirement – beat Iran to qualify. A loss to England would also require a win against Iran while hoping Wales can’t hit back and beat England.

Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey turned red

Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey turned red

Wales’ Wayne Hennessey receives a red card after an awkward collision from the penalty area against Iran’s Mehdi Taremi in the 82nd minute.

Iran, disappointing in a 6-2 defeat by England, reacted brilliantly, playing with panache and tenacity throughout. From nothing, they have become one of the stories of the tournament.

Ali Gholizadeh put the ball in the net after 15 minutes, only for his try, which was offside. And Wales couldn’t pose much of a real threat even with Gareth Bale and big forward Kieffer Moore – who caused so much trouble for the USA – in the starting line-up.

In the second half, Iran’s fitness showed and began to dominate the action. Coach Carlos Queiroz cried out in dismay after a double loss as Sardar Azmoun’s shot hit the post after going wide of the Welsh defense and moments later Gholizadeh’s flick from the edge of the box shook the wooden structure as well.

Azmoun, whose inclusion in the squad was in doubt last week after joining widespread national protests in Iran, was substituted in the 69th minute after an intense afternoon that perhaps should have brought greater rewards.

Highlights of Wales vs. Iran

Highlights of Wales vs. Iran

Iran capitalized late on goals from Roozbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian in added time.

In the end it didn’t matter. Cheshmi collected the ball on the edge of the box and took his chance as Wales tried to hold on with 10 men. His shot went past reserve goalkeeper Danny Ward into the net.

As Wales attempted to throw men forward, Iran erupted again and Rezaeian completed a swift counterattack to complete a historic triumph – as Iran look to reach the knockout stages for the first time in history.

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Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports and author of the FOX Sports Insider newsletter. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and Subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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