Cymru must beat England on Tuesday, and assuming the victory is by less than four goals, Rob Page and his squad will then rely on Iran and the United States to draw. That is the situation for Cymru. That is the consequence of picking up a single point from the opening two games in Group B.
Cymru v England
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It is not impossible for Cymru to qualify for the knockout stages, but the challenge is a difficult one. Cymru have not beaten England since 1984, but there have already been a number of surprises in this tournament and if Page can restore the confidence and belief that ended the 64-year wait to compete on the world stage then Cymru can indeed go head-to-head against their neighbours without fear.
“It's a tough task,” explained midfielder Joe Allen to the media on Sunday. “It's always uncomfortable when it's not in your hands and you're relying on certain things to unfold but, while there's still a chance, it's really simple for us. We're fully motivated, fully incentivised into throwing absolutely everything into getting the win. Then, who knows? Hopefully, there's a chance we can still get us out of this group.”
Captain Gareth Bale became the most-capped Welshman in history against Iran on Friday as he made his 110th international appearance, but the 2-0 defeat made what should have been a historic day a day to forget. Page and his squad have been criticised over the last few days and they will be desperate to produce a performance against England and show the rest of the world what the Red Wall know they are capable of.
We're fully motivated, fully incentivised into throwing absolutely everything into getting the win. Then, who knows? Hopefully, there's a chance we can still get us out of this group.
“We're not where we hoped to be two games into the group stage,” added Allen. “In terms of what went wrong, I don't think there's any one thing you could put your finger on. We've gone through everywhere we can improve and, so far, it's not been a fair reflection of what we're capable of. That's been a real disappointment because we can offer so much more and we will certainly will have to do that in the next game.”
England began the tournament with an impressive 6-2 victory over Iran, but their 0-0 draw against the United States on Friday means that Gareth Southgate's side are not through to the knockout stages just yet. Southgate is expected to make changes to his starting line-up at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium on Tuesday, and he has a wealth of talent available to choose from in his 26-man squad. For Cymru, goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey will miss the match through suspension following his straight red card in the defeat to Iran.
“We’re facing an opponent that is wounded and, like everyone else, desperate to beat the English,” said Southgate. “We know what that will be like. We need to play an intelligent game and play it well. We need to match their spirit. I’d be very disappointed afterwards if someone says their players want it more than ours. I’d be asking questions about what we stand for and what we have stood for over the past five years. I don’t think that during the time I’ve been in charge we’ve fallen short because of pride and emotion.”
All four nations can still qualify from Group B. England head into the final round of games as leaders with four points and a victory would maintain that position. Providing they avoid a four goal defeat by Cymru they will still progress, but a draw could also be enough for them to qualify as group winners unless Iran beat the United States or Iran lose by at least four goals. A draw between Iran and the United States would also be enough for England to qualify, providing Cymru do not beat them by four or more goals. The United States must beat Iran to go through, but a draw would be enough for Iran unless Cymru win.
Cymru's solitary point at the World Cup came against the United States as Bale converted from the penalty spot in the final ten minutes to earn his side a 1-1 draw. A frustrating and difficult opening half required a motivational speech from Page at half-time and the manager will need to inspire his players again if he is to prevent an early exit from the competition. Changes to the starting line-up are expected, and while those incoming will embrace the opportunity, there will also be a desire from the senior figures in the squad to make amends for Friday's defeat.