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Wales deserved the World Cup defeat by Iran, Page admits

Wales manager Robert Page admitted his team had fallen well below the standards they had set for themselves when defeat by Iran brought them to the brink of World Cup elimination.

Page refused to use Wayne Hennessey’s red card – only the third for a goalkeeper in World Cup history – as an excuse for the defeat and said Carlos Queiroz’s side were worthy of the win.

Iran hit both posts and were disallowed with a goal before finally taking the lead in the 98th minute through a long-range effort from substitute Roozbeh Cheshmi, three minutes later Ramin Rezaeian struck from a second escapee.

Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey, so often the architects of Wales’ success over the years, have both been disappointments and they now need a win over England next Tuesday to have any hope of reaching the knockout stages .

Page even appeared to describe the game against England as Wales’ ‘last’ game of the tournament, underscoring the difficult road ahead for the Dragons from here.

“It’s hard to take,” Page said. “I used to tell them before every game, ‘Go and show the world what you show us every day’ and that’s not a true reflection of this team.

“They got their true rewards today, they deserved this defeat. We fell well below the standards that got us to the World Cup. If we had met those standards, everything would have been fine. And if you do that in top competitions, you will be penalized.”

Asked about the game against England, Page said: “We want to end the competition on a high. It’s not in our hands to go through, but we want to finish with a good performance and a win. We’re weak at the moment but we’ll get them back up tomorrow to finish a tough game.”

Hennessey was initially shown a yellow card after running out of his goal and clapping into Iranian Porto striker Mehdi Taremi, but referee Mario Escobar was advised to review the decision and returned from the monitor with a red card.

The challenge was ruthless and high regardless of whether there was cover behind him.

Victory for Iran means their game against the United States – which would always have been highly charged given the political history between the nations – could now win anything to clinch a place in the last 16.

Queiroz felt there was too much outside pressure on his players ahead of the England game.

The team have become a political lightning rod for the turmoil in Iran, with pro-regime criticizing them for not singing the anthem before the game against England and protesters attacking them for not doing enough to address the emergency of women in the country.

The Portugal manager criticized the Iranians in the stands against England for booing his team, but was much more flattering to the fans after the Wales game.

“The crowd deserves a special word today,” he said. “It was joy, it was happiness, it was drama, I love this game when things are like this.”

He praised his team’s character, adding: “It was really very emotional because we were recovering from a difficult situation.”

Cheshmi admitted the team had found the first few days of the World Cup extremely tough.

“I should say that if the pressure was football-related it would be acceptable, but if the players were being pressurized unfairly that would not be right,” he said through an interpreter.

“Players were judged abruptly and not given football pressure. The whole team helped each other. I scored the goal but the team did the work.”

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