Wales manager Rob Page has a full squad to choose from for Friday’s World Cup encounter with Iran at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium after Joe Allen, who began training with the main group on Wednesday, was passed fit.
The Swansea City midfielder has been out since mid-September with a hamstring injury, but his return to fitness is a boost for Wales as they enter a pivotal game following Monday’s 1-1 draw with the United States.
“Joe got through his fitness test, so that’s good news. He’s fit and raring to go,” said Page, who is set to hand Kieffer Moore a starting spot after the striker came off the bench to spark Wales’ revival against the Americans.
“We were all concerned about him because of the extent of the injury.
“He kept breaking down. We had to meet targets along the way and they’ve met every target. Last week they pushed him to 100 per cent. It was a gamble.
“If he’d have broken down he would have been completely out of the tournament.”
Captain Gareth Bale is also set to feature in Doha despite suggestions the forward could be rested for the crucial Group B clash.
Page was asked at his pre-match press conference about the possibility of Bale not featuring against Iran and replied: “Good luck not picking him!”
Bale himself wants to make becoming the most-capped men’s player in Welsh football history “even more special” by leading the team to World Cup victory over Iran.
The 33-year-old is set to overtake Chris Gunter, who will be among the substitutes for Friday’s encounter, and win his 110th cap.
Bale, who made his Wales debut in 2006 and is his country’s record scorer with 41 goals, said: “I haven’t really been focusing on the cap thing to be honest, just trying to focus on the game.
“On a personal level it’s an amazing achievement, it’s an honour to represent my country so many times.
I haven’t really been focusing on the cap thing to be honest, just trying to focus on the game. On a personal level it’s an amazing achievement, it’s an honour to represent my country so many times.
“But it’s more important that we try and get the victory. Hopefully we can and it’ll make it even more special.”
Bale played the entire game against the USA which, like so many in this tournament, went well beyond 100 minutes due to stoppages and substitutions.
He said in the month leading up to the World Cup that he had been dealing with a “few little issues” and he had only played 30 minutes of football before the USA opener.
Page insists Bale is ready for Wales’ second group game, even if the player himself admits such an energy-sapping match to open with was not ideal due to the quick turnaround in fixtures.
Bale said: “I’m feeling OK, obviously it took a few days before I could feel my legs again.
“But we are professionals, we try to recover and do the best we can. Playing 104 minutes, or whatever it was, isn’t ideal when you’ve got a game four days later.
“Everyone is doing all they can to recover for the next game. I’ve not played loads before I came here, but I’ve dealt with it before and it won’t be a problem.”
Wales are confident of handling the early-afternoon heat in Doha, with the temperature expected to be around 29 degrees Celsius when the game kicks off at 1pm local time.
Training has been tweaked in recent days with Wales starting earlier to acclimatise themselves to the hot conditions.
Bale said: “It’s warm, it’s not crazy warm. Training is different to a game as the intensity is different.
“We have a plan as a squad on nutrition and hydration. As long as we can execute that, it will put us in a better position to deal with the heat and humidity.”
Round of 16
Saturday December 3
49 – Netherlands (Winners of Group A) vs Wales (Runners-up of Group B) – Kick-off 3pm
50 – Saudi Arabia (Winners of Group C) vs Tunisia (Runners-up of Group D) – Kick-off 7pm
Sunday December 4
52 – France (Winners of Group D) vs Poland (Runners-up of Group C) – Kick-off 3pm
51 – England (Winners of Group B) vs Ecuador (Runners-up of Group A) – Kick-off 7pm
Monday December 5
53 – Spain (Winners of Group E) vs Croatia (Runners-up of Group F) – Kick-off 3pm
54 – Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland or Cameroon (Winners of Group G) vs Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay or South Korea (Runners-up of Group H) – Kick-off 7pm
Tuesday December 6
55 – Belgium (Winners of Group F) vs Japan (Runners-up of Group E) – Kick-off 3pm
56 – Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay or South Korea (Winners of Group H) vs Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland or Cameroon (Runners-up of Group G) – Kick-off 7pm
Provisional quarter-final fixtures (Last updated: Wednesday November 23 using current group table standings)
Friday December 9
58 – Spain or Croatia vs Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland, Cameroon, Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay or South Korea – Kick-off 3pm
57 – Netherlands or Wales vs Saudi Arabia or Tunisia – Kick-off 7pm
Saturday December 10
60 – Belgium or Japan vs Portugal, Ghana, Uruguay, South Korea, Brazil, Serbia, Switzerland or Cameroon – Kick-off 3pm
59 – England or Ecuador vs France or Poland – Kick-off 7pm
What is England and Wales’ potential route to the final? *
If England/Wales win Group B….
Sunday December 4 – Last 16: England/Wales vs Ecuador (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor; kick-off 7pm)
Saturday December 10 – Quarter-final: England/Wales vs France (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor; kick-off 7pm)
Wednesday December 14 – Semi-final: England/Wales vs Belgium (Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor; kick-off 7pm)
Sunday December 18 – Final: England/Wales vs Netherlands (Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail; kick-off 3pm)
If England/Wales finish second in Group B…
Saturday December 3 – Last 16: Netherlands vs England/Wales (Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan; kick-off 3pm)
Friday December 9 – Quarter-final: England/Wales vs Argentina (Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail; 7pm)
Tuesday December 13 – Semi-final: England/Wales vs Brazil (Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail; kick-off 7pm)
Sunday December 18 – Final: England/Wales vs France (Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail; kick-off 3pm)
* Based on highest FIFA world ranking finishing top of respective groups and winning knock-out games