Ukraine’s attempt at World Cup qualification has come to an end just one win shy of an inspiring feat.
With a 1–0 victory in Cardiff, Wales clinched Europe’s last ticket to Qatar at Ukraine’s expense while also ending a 64-year drought at the World Cup.
It was none other than Welsh icon Gareth Bale who initiated the deciding goal for the Dragons. Off a free kick in the 34th minute, the departing Real Madrid star whipped a low shot into the box, where it was inadvertently headed in by Ukraine captain Andriy Yarmolenko for the own goal as he attempted to clear it.
But the true star of the match was Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, who made nine saves to keep a clean sheet. The biggest save seemed to come in the 83rd minute when Burnley keeper stopped an open Artem Dovbyk header.
Wales will now prepare for the United States in its opening game at the World Cup on Nov. 21, before facing Iran and England in Group B. The last time it participated in a major tournament was at Euro 2020, where it lost to Denmark in the round of 16. It had made a run to the semifinals at Euro 2016 before losing to eventual champion Portugal.
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The World Cup qualifying playoff was originally supposed to take place in March but was postponed after Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. The Ukrainian side then went on to defeat Scotland in Glasgow earlier this week in an inspired win to advance to the qualifying playoff final in Wales.
But many of the Ukrainian players left the field in tears after an emotional week where the war was at the forefront of the qualifying playoff.
There’s still more soccer to be played for Ukraine during the June international window, with the start of UEFA Nations League group play on June 8 vs. Republic of Ireland followed by a match against Armenia and then a second date with the Irish.
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