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Wales to reach last 16 will be difficult – Bale – Ghana Latest football news, live scores, scores

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Wales captain Gareth Bale said qualifying for the knockout stages of the World Cup will be “difficult” after Friday’s 2-0 defeat by Iran.

Robert Page’s side have a point from two games and need to beat England to progress.

Added-time goals from Roozbeh Cheshmi and Ramin Rezaeian sealed defeat for Wales, who also sent off goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey.

“It sucks – there’s no other way to put it,” Bale said.

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Manager Page was scathing in his assessment of Wales’ performance, which he described as “far from the levels we set”.

He added: “When there are so many days off, there is only one outcome. It’s a tough dressing room at the moment but we’ll be ready [against England].”

Bale struggled to make a difference against a resurgent Iran, who bounced back from their 6-2 opening defeat by England with a strong performance.

Bale, so often Wales’ talisman, had the fewest touches (36) of any outfield player in action throughout the game and managed just one shot on target.

He also received the lowest score in BBC Sport’s player rating for his performance (2.56), with teammate Aaron Ramsey just slightly ahead of him at 2.63.

“We fought to the end but it’s difficult when you go down to 10 men in the World Cup against good teams,” added Bale.

“We have to keep going and get back on our feet straight away. It’s going to be difficult now but we have to try to beat England – it’s that simple.”

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‘Wales can’t keep counting on Bale’

Bale’s negligible influence has been dissected by BBC pundits, with former Welsh defender James Collins saying the captain was aware his performance “wasn’t what we expected”.

The former Real Madrid and Tottenham forward joined major-league soccer club Los Angeles FC in the summer but has only played two games in the United States.

He also remained calm in Wales’ opener against USA, but scored a late penalty to salvage a draw.

And concerns are growing over Wales’ potential over-reliance on the 33-year-old.

“We can’t continue to count on Bale to pull us out of trouble by doing something magical or scoring a world-class goal,” Collins said on BBC Radio 5 Live.

“He knows he hasn’t reached the level we’re used to and we expect more.”

Former Scotland winger Pat Nevin went further, saying: “If his name wasn’t Gareth Bale he would have been taken out of the game and he wouldn’t be playing in the next one.

“He had no impact and didn’t try to get past anyone. We know Bale from the past and he didn’t look like the same guy.”

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