The Dragons qualified for their first FIFA World Cup finals since 1958 with a narrow 1-0 win over Ukraine. Andriy Yarmolenko turned the ball past his goalkeeper for the only goal of the game.
Gareth Bale confirmed his retirement plans are on hold after helping his national side qualify for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The former Real Madrid winger didn’t score on the night of their European play-off final against Ukraine, but it was the forward’s whipped-in freekick that brought about the game’s only goal.
Ukraine dominated the ball and the shot count on the night, registering 68 per cent possession and 22 shots at the opposition goal. Atalanta midfielder Ruslan Malinovskyi started the count in the fourth minute itself with a speculative shot from range that was held easily by Wayne Hennessey. Minutes later, Viktor Tsygankov tried his luck from distance, but Hennessey was up to the task again and parried the strike around the post.
Wales took the lead in the 34th minute. Bale stood over a freekick after Malinovskyi had fouled Daniel James in the left half-space. The attacker fizzed the ball with speed into a dangerous area, where it was flicked past Heorhiy Bushchan by his captain Yarmolenko.
Ukraine’s hero in their play-off semifinal against Scotland, the striker buried his face into the ground as a crowd of 30,000 Welsh supporters celebrated around him.
Rob Page’s men had the chance to seal the result after the break. Aaron Ramsey was guilty of missing one of those clear-cut opportunities as he fired the ball wide of the goal from the centre of the box. Later on, Neco Williams cannoned a shot off the near post, connecting sweetly with a cross from opposite full-back Connor Roberts.
As for Ukraine, their hopes of putting behind their miserable times of late, and qualifying for the World Cup, were almost single-handedly crushed by the Welsh custodian Hennessey. The goalkeeper made two great stops to deny Tsygankov and later Artem Dovbyk, helping his side hold onto its narrow advantage until the referee below the final whistle.
As a result, Wales sealed the final European berth in Qatar, where they will face neighbours England, Iran, and the United States of America in the group stage.