The action continues in Qatar after two World Cup contenders put their stamp on proceedings during day 5.
Some tantalizing contests are on the agenda, with England to take the field as hopes once again begin to grow among fans.
In Group A, the Netherlands will take on Ecuador with the winner assured of moving out of the group stage and into the knockout rounds.
Wales’ World Cup hopes took a hammering on Friday after Iran pulled off a stunning 2-0 victory, they’ll be hanging on results going their way when England take on the USA.
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11pm (AEDT) – Welsh heartbreak as Iran get it done
Iran have secured the three points against Wales in a game that featured plenty of ups and downs.
They found the net in the first half, only for VAR to rule Ali Gholizadeh offside and send both teams into the half tied up.
Things changed drastically in the 86th minute when Wales keeper Wayne Hennessey made a wild move miles outside of the penalty box.
A counter attacking move looked to have Iran striker Mehdi Taremi out in the open, but Hennessey launched into the air and smashed into Taremi with his leg raised high.
His fate was initially saved when the referee showed a yellow card before reviewing the incident through VAR and showing the first red card of the World Cup.
Reduced to 10 men, Wales had their backs against the wall and defended with everything they had. But eventually Iran found a way into the back of the net as Welsh hearts broke in unison.
Roozbeh Cheshmi got on the end of a failed clearance and from outside the box he slammed the ball into the bottom right corner of the net past the outstretched hand of keeper Danny Ward in the 98th minute.
Moments later they made it a certainty by punishing a desperate Wales on the break. After throwing everything they had at trying to level it up, Iran pounced on the rebound.
A four on two break eventuated before Ramin Rezaelan lifted the ball over Ward and into the back of the net.
It becomes the latest goal scored in regulation in World Cup history.
The result for the time being pushes Iran to second place in Group B with their final group game coming against the USA.
For Wales now their World Cup dream hinges on results going their way if they’re to advance to the knockout stages.
9pm (AEDT) – Wild scenes during Iranian national anthem
During Iran’s opening game of the 2022 World Cup, the playing group refused to participate when the nation’s anthem was blaring out across the stadium.
On Friday, before their match against Wales kicked off, the team joined in, however in the stands the fans unleashed a chorus of boos.
The noise coming from the Iran supporters almost drowned out the speakers as the whistling and jeering reached incredible levels.
As cameras panned around the stadium, two fans were spotted breaking down in the middle of the anthem being played.
The Iranian players had stood impassively during their anthem before their 6-2 defeat to England on Monday in an apparent gesture of solidarity with anti-government protesters in the Islamic republic.
Many believed the display on Friday was a more forced effort rather than being in the national spirit.
An AFP photographer at the stadium on Friday witnessed security staff confiscating a flag from a fan with the protest slogan: “Woman, Life, Freedom.”
Iran forward Mehdi Taremi denied on Thursday that his team had come “under pressure” from their government to sing the anthem at the World Cup.
“I don’t like to talk about political issues, but we are not under any pressure,” Taremi said on the eve of the Wales game.
Iran has been shaken by two months of nationwide protests since the death of 22-year-old Mahsa Amini in morality police custody on September 16.
Amini, a 22-year-old Iranian of Kurdish origin, died three days after her arrest in Tehran over an alleged breach of the dress code for women, which includes the mandatory hijab headscarf.
The crackdown since Amini’s death has left at least 400 people dead, according to Oslo-based group Iran Human Rights.
The state’s response has led to questions about whether the team represents Iran or the regime that has ruled with an iron fist since the Islamic Revolution of 1979.
An Iranian official made a chilling threat to the players if they continued to snub the national anthem following their first game.
Former Iranian intelligence chief turned senior politician Mehdi Chamran warned of punishment for the team.
Chamran – a conservative hardliner who is now the head of the Tehran city council – said: “We will never allow anyone to insult our anthem and flag.
“Iranian civilization has a history of several thousand years, this civilization is as old as the total of European and American civilizations.”
The Guardian reported that other top Iranian politicians had called for the team to be totally replaced by new players who are “willing to sing the national anthem”.
– with AFP