England and Wales are back in World Cup action on Friday as the teams in Groups A and B play their second matches of the tournament.
Rob Page’s Wales side kick-off early on, taking on Iran at 10am and looking to build on a well-earned 1-1 draw against the USA on Monday.
Gareth Southgate’s England kick-off as the last game of the day at 7pm, facing an impressive USA side but buoyed from their 6-2 thrashing of Iran.
In Group A, hosts Qatar take on Senegal – looking for their first points of the competition – while Louis van Gaal’s Netherlands face Ecuador, with the sides joint-top of the group after winning 2-0 in their opening games.
- Wales vs Iran – Group B, kick-off 10am
- Qatar vs Senegal – Group A, kick-off 1pm
- Netherlands vs Ecuador – Group A, kick-off 4pm
- England vs the USA – Group B, kick-off 7pm
How England can qualify for round of 16 on Friday
England are top of Group B on three points having beaten Iran 6-2 on matchday one. Wales and USA are locked on a point apiece following their draw on Monday, while Iran prop up the group.
If England secure another three points, they will qualify for the round of 16 and remain in top spot.
Victory could even seal qualification as group winners provided Wales have drawn with Iran. Were Wales to suffer defeat, Iran could still mathematically finish above England with another win over USA.
Head-to-head record is the third tie-breaking method at this tournament, after goal difference and then goals scored.
If Wales head into the final game with England on four points, having beaten Iran, they could still finish above England with victory on matchday three, regardless of how England fare against USA.
In-form Taremi to take down Wales?
Sky Sports’ Peter Smith:
Iran were expected to provide England with a far sterner test than they managed on Monday but their striker Mehdi Taremi showed his threat with an impressive performance, given the circumstances of that 6-2 defeat.
He showed his instinctive one-touch finishing ability with the first goal and his composure to put away the penalty deep into stoppage time in the second half for his second.
He led the attacking metrics for his side and despite Iran having just 22 per cent of possession in the match the stats show they managed to find him quickly when they did win the ball back. Iran are likely to have more possession against Wales but expect them to look for him at every opportunity.
And there’s good reason for that. Taremi has five goals in five Champions League appearances this season and with 16 goal involvements in his last 13 matches for club and country he’s bang in form.
His stats for Porto this season illustrate how dangerous he is in the box – whether shooting himself or setting up a team-mate, with six goals and five assists to his name this term in the league. He may lose more aerial duels than he wins but he adds so much to the Portuguese side’s frontline – and has become a standout striker in Europe.
He has some story, too. Taremi was a late developer. He’s 30-years-old now but it wasn’t until he was 22 that he played in Iran’s top flight and he didn’t make it to Europe until he was 27.
In between there was a spell in Qatar, so he knows the environment of this World Cup well, but his 62 goals in 115 games for Porto – including the 20 he hit in the league during their double-winning season in 2021/22 – show this is a player who has well and truly arrived now.
Is there another step up in his career to come? The discussion about him could well ramp up in January but for now his focus is on extending his record of 30 goals in 61 Iran appearances against Wales…
Cisse: I have total trust in Mendy
Senegal coach Aliou Cisse has total trust in goalkeeper Edouard Mendy despite his rocky start to the World Cup campaign.
Mendy was arguably at fault for both goals in his side’s opening 2-0 loss to the Netherlands, continuing a difficult spell for the goalkeeper. He has found himself on the bench for periods at Chelsea this season, with Kepa Arrizabalaga preferred under new manager Graham Potter.
“Edouard is doing very well, he has got a steely resolve,” Cisse told reporters on Thursday.
“Edouard’s qualities speak for themselves, I don’t think that anyone is doubting him, sometimes he has highs, sometimes he has lows, he has my full trust, my blind trust, and that of his team-mates. Tomorrow, he will be on the pitch.”
Senegal centre-back Kalidou Koulibaly, who is also Mendy’s team-mate at Chelsea, said people were over-reacting about the ‘keeper’s form.
“We play at the same club and we are also brothers in arms for Senegal, Edouard is a very important player for us, it is normal to go through difficult phases – I think we are making a mountain out of a molehill here,” he said.
Qatar want to prove they can compete, says Sanchez
Qatar want to prove they can compete at the highest level when they face Senegal, says coach Felix Sanchez.
The Asian champions hope to avoid becoming the fourth hosts eliminated in the first round at the finals after Switzerland, Chile and South Africa in 1954, 1962 and 2010 respectively. Qatar lost 2-0 to Ecuador in the opening game of the tournament.
“Hopefully we can play freely and without pressure and be better than what happened in the first game, this team have a point to prove,” Sanchez said.
“Matches are controlled by many factors, but the most important thing is to give our best, in the World Cup if you don’t give your best you will be punished.
“Emotionally, things were very difficult [for the opening game] and dealing with the World Cup is completely different. I hope that the performance will be as competitive against Senegal.
“We did not provide the joy to the fans, but we tried to avoid a negative vibe in the past days.”
England captain Harry Kane has been given the all clear to face the United States in England’s World Cup Group B clash in Al Khor on Friday after shaking off an ankle knock, manager Gareth Southgate confirmed.
Iran goalkeeper Alireza Beiranvand has been stood down under concussion protocols following his clash of heads with team-mate Majid Hosseini in Monday’s match.
Beiranvand required treatment for several minutes after the incident and still looked unwell when he returned to his feet yet, remarkably, he was briefly allowed to play on. He is set to be replaced by Hossein Hosseini, who came on as a sub in Iran’s defeat to England.
Queiroz said: “Day by day, test by test, everything is moving alright and we are happy with that situation but, due to the fact that he was involved in an incident that is related to concussion, there is a medical protocol that we need to respect. There is no way to move around the protocol. He will not play, but he will be ready for the last game.”
Ecuador are awaiting further tests on veteran striker Enner Valencia before deciding whether he is fit enough to start against the Netherlands.
The 33-year-old scored both goals in Ecuador’s opening 2-0 win against Qatar and is pivotal to their World Cup hopes, but he limped off late in that game with a knee strain.
“The tests showed that he doesn’t have an injury but the trauma is very serious. We’ll have a look at him this afternoon [Thursday] and decide,” Ecuador head coach Gustavo Alfaro told reporters.
“I said the other day that not even fire could stop Enner. If it’s up to him, he will play. Let’s give it the benefit of the doubt and hope he responds well in this afternoon’s training.”
- In all competitions, England have won eight of their 11 meetings with USA (D1 L2). Their last defeat against them came in June 1993 (0-2), winning four and drawing one of their meetings since then.
- USA have played more games at the World Cup without ever having a goalless draw than any other side (34), while England have had more games finish 0-0 than any other nation (11).
- This is just the second ever meeting between Wales and Iran, with the Red Dragons winning the other in April 1978 – Phil Dwyer scoring the only goal of the game.
- Carlos Queiroz has only won two of his 11 matches at the World Cup (D4 L5) across spells with Portugal and Iran. His teams had only conceded seven goals in his first 10 games before Iran’s 6-2 defeat to England.
- Qatar didn’t have a single shot on target in their opening match against Ecuador – the first host nation to fail to do so in a World Cup match since USA against Brazil in the round of 16 in 1994.
- Netherlands boss Louis van Gaal has lost none of his eight World Cup matches in charge (W6 D2, excluding shootouts). Only Vittorio Pozzo (9 – W8 D1) has managed more games without ever losing in the competition.
- Ecuador are looking to win consecutive World Cup matches in the same edition for only the second time, previously winning their first two matches in 2006 to qualify for the knockout stages.