Wales edge Ukraine, pick up first World Cup ticket since 1958
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Wales edge Ukraine, pick up first World Cup ticket since 1958

Wales sealed their place in the 2022 FIFA World Cup with a hard-fought 1-0 win over Ukraine in their European Playoff final at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Wales were made to wait for their shot at a place in the FIFA World Cup due to the crisis that has engulfed Ukraine. Rob Page’s men had defeated Austria in their playoff semifinal in March but had to wait for Ukraine to take on Scotland in the other semifinal, and Ukraine picked up a 3-1 win to seal a date with the Welsh side.

Wales welcomed their hero from the win against Austria, Gareth Bale, back after he was left out of their defeat to Poland in their UEFA Nations League opener, and it was he who was the catalyst for his national team against Ukraine.

Ukraine started the match on the front foot in Cardiff, forcing their opposition to sit deep and soak the pressure. The home side was forced to rush into tackles and commit fouls in a bid to break their dominance.

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The Dragons survived an early scare as Manchester City midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko saw a goal disallowed after a free-kick was adjudged to have been taken too quickly. Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessy was also forced into several saves as the Ukrainians looked to press home their advantage.

Against the run of play, it was the home side that took the lead in fortuitous fashion. Captain Gareth Bale fired a free-kick which appeared to be drifting wide before his opposing captain Andriy Yarmolenko inadvertently diverted the ball past his own goalkeeper with his head in the 34th minute.

After going behind, Ukraine decided to attack with more vigour, leaving gaps behind in their quest for an equaliser.

Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale were guilty of missing clear chances for their side as they sought to exploit the gaps left behind by the visitors. Wales defender Ben Davies intervened brilliantly to deny Yarmolenko a chance to go through on goal in the second half as it became increasingly chaotic. Brennan Johnson struck the post as the home side sought to punish their visitors.

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Hennessey was called into action late in the game and made an outstanding one-handed save to deny an Artem Dovbyk header from point-blank range. Despite their best efforts, Ukraine failed to breach the home side’s resolute backline and missed out on what could have been only their second appearance at the World Cup finals.

Wales will now proceed to make their first appearance at a World Cup since 1958, and the Dragons would face England, USA, and Iran in the group stage of the showpiece.

Salahudeen Sulayman

Sulayman is a sports enthusiast and budding Sports writer. You can reach him on Twitter @Sulayman_Salah

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