Wales book World Cup place for the first time in 64 YEARS
Wales book World Cup place for the first time in 64 YEARS as Gareth Bale’s deflected free-kick seals a 1-0 win over war-torn Ukraine in Cardiff… and they’ll face England in Qatar group stage
- Wales booked their place in Qatar with a 1-0 victory over war-torn Ukraine
- Rob Page’s side ended a 64-year wait to appear at the World Cup on Sunday
- Wales took the lead after Andriy Yarmolenko headed in Gareth Bale’s free kick
- Wayne Hennessey made a series of crucial saves to maintain the hosts’ lead
- Wales go into Group B, alongside England, United States and Iran at Qatar 2022
- Click here for all the latest World Cup 2022 news and updates
A beautiful tale played out here. It just wasn’t the one about small mercies in hell. About sport bringing shades of hope to gruesome pictures. No, it wasn’t that. It was the Welsh story and in its own way, it was magnificent.
Important? Not in the context of wars. A pure delight to those it involved? A wonderful culmination to lesser journeys? Goodness, it will take some time for the cloud of red smoke to clear from the sky over this stadium.
When the game was done, and what a slog that was, they danced like maniacs. The players, that is. There was Gareth Bale, arms a blur of waves after one of his less pronounced performances. There was Wayne Hennessey, floating after the goalkeeping display of his life. Then there was Ben Davies, a picture of exhaustion and a man of priceless blocks.
Wales head to the World Cup for the first time in 64 years after beating Ukraine 1-0 in Cardiff
Andriy Yarmolenko headed home an own goal from Gareth Bale’s free kick to put Wales ahead
Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey made a series of critical saves to keep his side ahead
Some 64 years had passed since Wales last sent a side to the World Cup. They felt the force of Pele back then; he was a teenager. Houses cost two grand. Now, after the Joe Jordan debacle of 1977, the iffy penalty of 1985 and the Paul Bodin episode of 1993, they can go back to that platform.
Wales (3-5-2): Hennessey 9; Ampadu 7, Rodon 7, B Davies 8; Roberts 7, Ramsey 7, Allen 7, James 7 (Johnson 71, 7), N Williams 8 (Norrington-Davies 90); Bale 6.5 (Wilson 83), Moore 6.5
Subs not used: Ward, A Davies, Gunter, Mepham, Morrell, J Williams, Harris, Thomas, Matondo
Booked: James, Allen
Manager: Rob Page 7
Ukraine (4-1-4-1): Buschan 6; Karavaev 6.5, Zabarnyi 7, Matviyenko 7, Mykolenko 7; Stepanenko 6.5 (Sydorchuk 70, 7); Yarmolenko 6.5, Malinovskyi 6.5, Zinchenko 7.5, Tsygankov 7 (Mudryk 77); Yaremchuk 6.5 (Dovbyk 77)
Subs not used: Pyatov, Riznyk, Sobol, Bondar, Syrota, Shaparenko, Pikhalonok, Kacharaba, Zubkov
Booked: Mykolenko, Mudryk
Manager: Olexandr Petrakov 7
Ref: Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz (Spain) 5
Again, it wasn’t the win the neutrals wanted – the world was in the opposing corner, and who can criticise that?
But Wales had their own narrative and it is none too shabby, from the history we have touched on to the Rob Page resurrection out of the ashes of Ryan Giggs’s problems, and up to the Bale swansong and the value of a team that regularly exceeds its parts.
It hasn’t been easy and nor was this game. They were actually pretty poor. And lucky. Oleksandr Zinchenko did lovely things in Ukraine’s midfield; Joe Allen gave away what looked a certain penalty in the first half at 1-0.
Of 32 shots in the 90 minutes, 22 came from Ukraine. Had Wales not had Burnley’s reserve keeper, Hennessey, they might have lost by three or four. He was immense.
And it was from that springboard, or wall, that they won, with a Bale free-kick badly diverted into an own goal on Andriy Yarmolenko. It was cruel. The whole thing was cruel. What good a Ukraine win might have been for those who needed it more.
But sport doesn’t always work that way. On this occasion, it worked for Wales.
Among the key factors prior to kick off was conditioning. Recovery. What had been endured and what was left to give. For Wales, that was easy enough – Page had drawn from the fringes in Poland in midweek and only Daniel James and Kieffer Moore were started for the second time in four days.
And Ukraine? With a flag shipped from the frontline to their dressing room in Cardiff, the same side emerged on the grass as that which crushed Scotland on Wednesday.
No doubts could be raised about the hearts and minds selected for the assignment, but what of the legs? With six of that 11 having not played a game of club football in 2022, there was a valid question of whether science and logic would have more of a bearing on the result than romance.
Ukraine received the flag from soldiers on the front-line, who each wrote a personal message
Joe Allen (left, pictured with Oleksandr Zinchenko) was booked inside two minutes for a lunge
A sound enough theory, anyway. Irrespective of them falling behind 34 minutes in, the Ukrainians went off like greyhounds.
In the first 15 minutes alone there had been a steady drip of chances for Oleksandr Karavaev, Viktor Tsygankov and Roman Yaremchuk, mostly shots on sight, and typically blocked at a stretch by Wayne Hennessey. He was shaping into an early hero. The one that got through, a free-kick by Oleksandr Zinchenko, was disallowed for being taken too soon.
For their part, such as it was, Wales seemed caught in that web of playing the occasion. Forgivable, really, but almost costly, because Joe Allen was booked inside two minutes for a lunge and, more foolishly, Dan James was given a yellow for yelling ‘f*** off’ in the referee’s face.
Bale is picked out at the back post but his sidefooted shot is well saved by the goalkeeper
Daniel James’s shot from 15 yards out ricochets off a Ukrainian defender and goes over the bar
Of greater concern, the trade-off for Page giving Neco Williams licence to surge up the left was the resulting pocket of space behind him that Ukraine repeatedly exploited.
For a time that looked like being influential, with Wales making very little ground in their own attacks. And then James won a free-kick. And Bale took it. And Yarmolenko’s forehead rerouted it to the wrong place. Whether it was a shot or cross by Bale, only he knows, but the guy in the crowd who set off the red smoke cannister didn’t seem so fussed.
Ukraine resumed chase with a blitz of one-touch moves, and should have had a penalty when Yarmolenko was tripped by Joe Allen.
That was followed by Zinchenko testing Hennessey with the umpteenth skimmer off a wet pitch – good goalkeeping and good fortune in close proximity. It was doing the trick for Wales.
James won a free kick which Bale took but it was unclear if he intended to shoot or cross
Ben Davies put in a defensively heroic performance to preserve the 1-0 lead after the break
Aaron Ramsey and Tsygankov each missed excellent chances at the start of the second period and Ben Davies nicked another off Yarmolenko’s toe as he set to shoot.
With the traffic building, Ruslan Malinovskyi also shot fractionally wide, before Brennan Johnson rolled against a Ukrainian post. In the subsequent scuffle, Bale shot straight at Georgiy Bushchan, and in a blink Davies had kept one more drive off his own line.
That was good – Hennessey’s leap to save from Artem Dovbyk was better.
That kind of game. That kind of story.
RELIVE ALL THE ACTION ON THE NIGHT IN CARDIFF WITH OUR LIVE RUNNER FROM SPORTSMAIL’S ISABEL BALDWIN
That’s all from us folks.
Wales have Wayne Hennessey and Ben Davies to thank for their plane ticket to Qatar where Group B awaits.
We’ll leave you with these dates for your diary:
USA v Wales: November 21
Wales v Iran: November 25
Wales v England: November 29
Wales’s ecstasy is Ukraine’s agony.
It is a bitter and heartbreaking end for the war-torn country who were relying on their squad to lift them through a dark time.
There is a slow clap by the Ukrainian players in front their fans. There are tears aplenty on the pitch and in the stands.
The roof lifts off in Cardiff as Wales seal their place in Qatar!
Rob Page’s side have ended a 64-year wait to appear at the World Cup after a defensively heroic performance!
WALES 1-0 UKRAINE
Neco Williams makes way for Norrington-Davies after a great performance.
There will be an additional five minutes.
Wilson has his first big involvement of the game after he is cleaned out by Mudryk 30 yards from goal.
In Bale’s absence he steps up to take the free kick but he hits the wall and wins a corner.
He then swings the corner in over everyone in the box until reaching Johnson outside the area.
Everything but a goal for Ukraine. What a save AGAIN for Wayne Hennessey.
Mykolenko lands the ball perfectly on Dovbyk’s head six yards out, he sends it towards the top corner but Hennessey is there to claw it away.
Incredible stuff from the keeper.
Harry Wilson is on for Bale who hands the captain’s armband over to Ramsey.
Back down the other end Davies is there with more crucial defending as he blocks a close range shot from Yarmolenko.
If Hennessey was the hero of the first half, Davies is the hero of the second.
Huge huge chances for Wales.
Roberts lifts a cross to the back post where Johnson is waiting but his shot thumps back off the post.
Johnson is there again this time he crosses for Ramsey instead of shooting himself. Ramsey then picks out Bale at the back post but his sidefooted shot is well saved by the goalkeeper.
Johnson has already had a massive impact since coming on.
Sydorchuk and Shaparenko are on for Stepanenko and Malinovskyi for Ukraine.
Meanwhile, Wales youngster Brennan Johnson replaces James.
Zinchenko gets the wrong side of the defence inside the box but his cross finds no one and goes out for a goal kick.
Ramsey dinks a pass through for James as Wales break.
James does well to rush on the ball and has a crack from 15 yards out but his shot ricochets off a Ukraine defender and it skies towards the goal but just brushes over the bar.
The Ukraine keeper is down again clutching his ankle.
Yarmolenko has a chance to tap home from about eight yards but Ben Davies has positioned himself extremely well and he make a superb tackle to keep Wales out of trouble – just.
Another let off for Wales and another Wayne Hennessey rescue.
Mykolenko sends in a low cross into the box and Tsygankov is there to slide in a shot but he can’t quite get his footwork right and Hennessey does well again to hold his ground and save with his right foot.
Yaremchuk fluffs his lines with the rebound and it goes wide. Ukraine should be level.
Lahoz jogs over to the sidelines to book Page for his protestations relating to the treatment of James who has been barrelled over a few times already without reward.
The referee already had a word with the Ukraine boss a couple of minutes into the second half.
Huge, huge move from Wales started brilliantly by Neco Williams as he wins the ball back deep within his own half.
He surges forward before slipping the ball up the pitch to James.
James dribbles inside before finding Moore on the left edge of the box who does well to pick out Ramsey in the box.
But Ramsey sends a poor shot wide from 12 yards. What a great – and crucial – goal that would’ve been for Wales.
And we’re back underway!
Just 45 minutes stand between Wales and the World Cup.
Wales will be glad to have reached the break still ahead. Hennessey has arguably been the nest player on the pitch which is a strong indicator of the game.
Both sides have been very attack-minded with strong chances from each side but Yarmolenko’s own goal from Bale’s free kick is still the only difference.
There will be an additional two minutes to the first half.
Joe Allen doesn’t see Yarmolenko coming from behind him in his own box and catches the Ukrainians heel.
The Ukraine captain goes down appealing for a penalty but after a lengthy check it’s not given and Wales are given a huge let off.
You can’t help but imagine the Real Madrid fans are fuming right now. Looks like Bale has once again saved the vintage performances for country. At least they wont be dealing with it next season anymore…
Wales take one step closer to Ukraine and who else but Gareth Bale to step up and deliver.
James wins another free-kick on the left and Bale steps up to take from 25 yards.
He fires it in across goal and Ukraine captain Yarmolenko heads it into his own goal.
Lift off in Cardiff!
Hennessey to the rescue again!
Yaremchuk plays a beautiful first time pass into Tsygankov’s path but the Wales keeper rushes in to snuff it out.
Mykolenko then goes into the book after putting an arm across James to stop the Welshman’s run.
Two chances in as many minutes for Ukraine.
Wales get caught out twice after losing possession twice on the edge oft heir box but Hennessey bails them out each time with two superb saves.
Ramsey sends in a sublime cross from the right but it is just over James’ head and Moore can’t get to the back post quick enough to head home.
Wales starting to look seriously threatening.
Moore proves why he was chosen to start as he wins the ball back in the middle of the park from a header and picks out Bale.
Wales look set to break with James alongside the captain but Bales opts to shoot from way out and of course it flies way over the bar.
Stick to the simple stuff for now Gareth, time for miracles later.
Bushchan is down having treatment and gets plenty of spray on his ankle. But he’s back up and set to carry on.
Wales chuck a deep cross into the box, it looks as though one player is offside but Bushchan comes to take it anyway.
But punches the ball behind instead and then goes down clutching his ankle. Luckily for him the referee calls for a foul.
He looked suspect against Scotland and he’s not exactly convincing tonight either.
Yaremchuk beats the offside trap and goes through one-on-one with Hennessey but the keeper does well to get down and block the shot from the right.
It spills out in front of him but he reacts well to get onto the follow up.
Back down the other end, Tsygankov hits a low drive which is going wide but Hennessey palms it behind just in case.
Ukraine have a couple of corners in quick succession but Wales deal with them.
Ukraine dominated the opening few minutes but Wales have settled into the game well.
This time it’s Neco Williams who has a chance after he’s found by Bale with a crossfield pass.
But he’s disappointed with his effort as he slightly scuffs his shot and misses the target wide.
Confident attacking play from the Welsh.
Davies pings a shot from 30 yards which is deflected behind. James swings in the corner from the left but it is punched clear by Bushchan.
Oh my word, that could have been an incredible start for Ukraine.
Zinchenko takes a quick free-kick which catches out Hennessey and ends up in the back of the net.
But the whistle hadn’t gone and the referee calls it back.
Wales have their blushed spareed.
Joe Allen has managed to get himself booked within two minutes after catching Stepanenko. James is also cautioned by Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz for a moan.
After the Welsh anthem is sung in typically good voice from the home support, the players take the knee.
And Ukraine get us underway in rainy Cardiff!
The players are out and lined up. The Ukraine squad have come out draped in the nation’s flag and their anthem is played first.
There’s a very emotionally charged atmosphere.
Oleksandr Zinchenko’s wife Vlada Shcheglova opened up on life and football since the Russian invasion.
Speaking on ITV she said: ‘At first, it was very difficult to go to training while war was going on in your country. He was overwhelmed with emotions and just wanted to go to fight.
‘But if you look at the statistics, only 1 in 15 men will fight. The other 14 need to keep on working and to help financially. So, Aleks understood that and decided to be helpful for his country with financial support to the army, but we will never be able to fully focus on football again.’
Wales and Bournemouth winger David Brooks is pitchside this evening after having completed treatment for Stage 2 Hodgkin Lymphoma.
He told Sky Sports: ‘I feel alright. Day to day-wise, it’s getting back to normality. It’s quite a surreal feeling to get the all-clear, but it’s quite weird to think that only 6-8 weeks ago I was on treatment cycle and stuff like that, it’s how quickly it can turn around, so I’m feeling good.
‘(Looking ahead to the game) I’d be dying to play in a game like this, and I think everyone’s exactly the same.’
Despite the rest of the world likely backing their opposition, the Wales fans are out in force to support their side.
The visitors are unchanged.
Ukraine XI: Bushchan; Karavaev, Zabarnyi, Matvienko, Mykolenko; Stepanenko; Yarmolenko, Malinovskyi, Zinchenko, Tsygankov; Yaremchuk
‘It’s massive for the country.
‘The excitement, the buzz around the place – we’ve given ourselves an unbelievable opportunity.
‘I trust in the players. I’ve got a great group of lads – it’s a pleasure to work with them and I’m honoured to work with them.
‘When you’ve got the quality that we’ve got in that changing room, then you trust in that.’
This is well worth two minutes of your time…
CRAIG HOPE: There was no sense of triumphalism.
While the rest of us lauded the full-time result and performance that brought Ukraine’s 3-1 win over Scotland, for their players, this was half-time.
That should serve as a warning to Wales ahead of Sunday’s World Cup play-off in Cardiff , where the prize is a ticket to Qatar.
To read the rest of the piece, click the link below…
So who could be available for the two sides? Well, expect Robert Page to make plenty of changes from the side that lost to Poland.
Joe Morrell is back from suspension for Wales, while Gareth Bale, Joe Rodon and Ben Davies should also return.
Aaron Ramsey and Joe Allen should form part of the midfield too.
Ukraine suffered no injuries in the week and therefore could name an unchanged XI.
Sorry Scotland fans…
The unwanted role of villain will be played by Wales this weekend as only they stand in Ukraine’s way of a place at the World Cup in Qatar, which politicians, fans and former players have all called for them to be given as a gesture of goodwill in response to the war.
Gareth Bale and Co will now take up the baton of the planet’s most unpopular team. Wales will be fully aware that every neutral will be on the side of the visitors in Cardiff on Sunday.
For Wales, they will be playing the occasion as much as Oleksandr Petrakov’s men, both of which proved too much for Scotland.
Nothing was going to shake the Welsh skipper out of his pre-match routine on the eve of the World Cup play-off final in the Welsh capital. So, he postponed his in-person press conference and opted to do it on Zoom instead.
A week after securing his fifth Champions League winners’ medal, and a few days after being made MBE in the Queen’s Birthday Honours list, the fans favourite ‘Prince of Wales’ said he was ready to help his side secure what would be a major scalp.
Bale, 32, has offers to continue playing regardless of how Sunday’s game ends. If Wales lose and he decides not to quit, the MLS appears to be the most likely destination. There has been an air of imminent retirement since last year when he said he would weigh up his options once Euro 2020 had ended.
READ MORE FROM SPORTSMAIL’S PETE JENSON BELOW
Ukraine manager Oleksandr Petrakov has revealed their country’s flag from the battleground will hang in their dressing room for Sunday’s World Cup play-off final against Wales.
Ukraine’s players are desperate to give hope to their people by qualifying for the World Cup, and Petrakov’s side are able to count on the support of most neutrals around the world.
The massive day we have all been waiting for, and the game which will decide who will claim that final place in Qatar.
Ukraine’s players have shown they have far from forgotten the reality of what is going on back home with Russia’s invasion. But they managed to put in a brilliant display to beat Scotland in the week.
That means only Robert Page’s men stand between them and the winter showpiece, but the hosts will be looking to reach their first World Cup for 64 years.
Share this article
Source: Read Full Article