Wales waited 64 years for a World Cup return but, baring a miraculous turnaround, their once in a generation adventure will end here.
The Dragons got their big moment on matchday one, holding USA to a 1-1 draw, courtesy of a late penalty from, who else, Gareth Bale.
So, hopes were high going into Friday morning’s match with IR Iran; work and school put on hold for the big game.
However, all the Welsh children watching in assembly halls were taught a harsh lesson.
Rob Page’s team looked set to be held to an agonising goalless draw, before everything fell apart right at the end.
First, in the 86th minute, Wayne Hennessey was sent off in the 86th minute, for a Schumacher on Battiston-esque ‘tackle’.
Then, in the eighth minute of injury time, Iran snatched the decisive go-ahead goal, before pouring salt into open wounds with a clincher three minutes later.
This 2-0 defeat means Wales can only advance if they win, and the other game is a draw, or they win by 4+ goals.
Given that they haven’t beaten England since 1984, this seems a long-shot.
The Three Lions, for their part, could have top spot wrapped up by now, but have left themselves with work to do.
After Gareth Southgate’s team demolished Iran 6-2, those whispering ‘it’s coming home’ were starting to do so at a louder volume.
However, Friday night’s dull, drab and turgid scoreless draw against USA has quelled the hopes of the nation, for now at least.
Nevertheless, this leaves England top of Group A, needing just a point to advance.
They’ll only need a victory to win the group if Iran win simultaneously, or the U.S. are victorious by 5+ goals.
Here, these two neighbours will meet for the 104th time, the first 101 of which were all played in England or Wales.
They then clashed in Lens, just over The Channel, at Euro 2016, with England coming from behind to snatch victory in the 92nd minute.
This time, over 3,000 miles from home, who will prevail in this Battle of Britain at Ahmad bin Ali Stadium?
Wales team news
Danny Ward, who started all four matches at Euro 2020, will be in goal for this one, with Wayne Hennessey suspended.
Elsewhere, despite calls for the likes of Aaron Ramsey to drop out, the ten outfielders could remain unchanged.
The only exception to this could come in midfield although, if Joe Allen is fit to start, it would likely come at Ethan Ampadu’s expense.
Since his debut, in which he scored against Slovakia in March 2019, Dan James had started all 34 of Wales’ competitive internationals without exception.
This streak was finally broken on Friday, with Harry Wilson getting the nod over James, although Brennan Johnson could start here.
Kieffer Moore will lead the line although, the only issue with that is it means they can’t bring him off the bench, as was the case against USA.
Ben Davies, Ramsey, Allen and Gareth Bale all started when these two rivals met at the European Championships six years ago.
Predicted XI (5-2-3): Ward; Roberts, Mepham, Rodon, Davies, Williams; Ramsey, Allen; Johnson, Bale, Moore.
England team news
Gareth Southgate named an unchanged line-up against the United States, doing so for the first time since the World Cup semi-final of 2018.
However, after a lifeless display, on Friday, he’ll surely make some changes here, right?
There’s always a clamour for one player to start, specifically a silky number ten, à la Glenn Hoddle, Paul Gascoigne or Jack Grealish at Euro 2020.
This time round, it’s Phil Foden; he remained an unused substitute against the U.S. while Mason Mount wasn’t up to much.
Similarly, many are calling for Trent Alexander-Arnold to come in, although this seems equally as unlikely.
If top spot was assured, Harry Kane would be given a much-needed rest, but Southgate doesn’t have that luxury now.
Incidentally, Kane is the only player who featured in that Euro 2016 clash that’ll start this one too.
Predicted XI (4-2-3-1): Pickford; Trippier, Maguire, Stones, Shaw; Rice, Bellingham, Mount, Saka, Sterling; Kane.