World Cup column: Savage - "Wales needed more energy and dynamism in Iran defeat"

The Dragons fell to a late 2-0 defeat against Iran that leaves them on the brink of crashing out of Group B.

By Callum Rice-Coates Published: 25 November 2022 - 6.01pm
Robbie Savage, Gareth Bale

Former Wales international Robbie Savage believes a lack of youthful energy and movement in the final third proved his country's downfall in their 2-0 World Cup defeat to Iran.

Rob Page's team were subdued throughout and fell to two late goals after Wayne Hennessey's red card.

That result means Wales need to beat England in their final group game, and BT Sport pundit Savage has given his verdict on a disappointing day for Gareth Bale and Co.

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How disappointed are you with the performance against Iran?

"I thought it was an extremely poor performance. They never got going, Iran played with a greater intensity and Wales never really had a spell in the game where you thought they were going to score. 

"Wales had one opportunity for Kieffer Moore against an Iran team who looked absolutely terrible against England. England scored six but they could have got more. They had movement, they interchanged, they were dynamic in the final third.

"The clamour for Moore to start - I understand it - but you look at the movement England had that caused problems for Iran. In the forward areas there wasn’t really any movement for Wales. Who was running in behind?

"Hindsight’s a wonderful thing and a lot of people said Moore should’ve started in the first game. I thought Rob Page got it right bringing him on in the second half. But he had no impact today - he had one chance.

"Should he have gone with the more dynamic players in the team? Wales looked like they had no energy and couldn’t live with Iran - they deservedly won.

"But credit to Iran, I still think they’re a poor team because England put six past them. Are England that good?"

Did you expect more from Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey?

"I’m not going to criticise Gareth Bale. He’s got 110 caps for Wales and he’s been absolutely unbelievable. Obviously he’s had a lack of game time and this World Cup’s probably come two or three years too late.

"I’m never going to stand here and have a go at Bale or Aaron Ramsey after what they’ve achieved for Wales. For me, Bale is still Wales’ greatest ever player.

"In the first game he stepped up when they needed him but today it wasn’t his game. It just wasn’t to be. Having to play two games in the space of a few days has obviously told today.

"Ramsey’s been amazing. I think today, because of the heat, because of the intensity and the mobility of the Iran players, it was difficult.

"It’s a big decision from a manager to take off one of Wales’ greatest players. Ramsey went off but after the Wayne Hennessey sending off we just couldn’t hold out.

"Hindsight’s great and we could’ve played a fresher, more energetic, younger team, but you can’t leave Bale and Ramsey out."

A dejected Gareth Bale looks on after Iran inflict defeat on Wales

Could Rob Page have taken a different tactical approach to the game?

"Pagey would have looked at everything. Personally, the way to beat Iran would’ve been playing more dynamic players up front. That’s the way England beat them, with movement and with runners in behind.

"But Pagey went with the ones he trusted and I get it, I understand it from a managerial point of view. After Kieffer Moore’s second half against USA everyone was saying ‘start him’, but I thought it would’ve been better to see a different approach in the final third."

Is this the end of an era for Wales?

"They qualified, they did amazingly, and they’re the first team in 64 years to do that. Rob Page has been great. Bale and Ramsey have done amazingly well for Wales but there will be a new generation coming through now.

"It’s up to the manager to look at that. I’m not going to say it’s the end for Bale and Ramsey because if they can stay on and help the youngsters that would be magnificent."

Wales' Ben Davies couldn't prevent Iran's injury-time goals

Is there still hope of qualifying? Can Wales get a result against England?

"We’re not out of it. If we can beat England, there’s a chance. But after that performance against Iran I don’t think we will.

"Any time Wales play England it’s a massive game, but I just think the confidence England are playing with, I expect them and USA to go through the group now."