Wales have booked their ticket to the FIFA World Cup in Qatar after a battling 1-0 win over Ukraine. The Welsh have Gareth Bale’s freekick and string of saves from an inspired Wayne Hennessey to thank. The victory, all but destroyed Ukrainian hopes of a first world cup since 2006.
Rob Page’s team will now do battle with fellow British nation England, the United States and Iran in group B of the world cup after scrambling through a difficult qualification process.
Gareth Bale’s strike from the free kick deflected off Ukraine forward Andriy Yarmolenko for the only goal of the game. Yarmolenko’s deflection proved to be monumental as no other goal was scored in the game.
Though Ukraine dominated possession throughout the game, they lacked the finishing to back up the dominance. Ukraine will feel hard done by a controversial decision penalty call, which the VAR also dismissed as not solid enough.
Burnley’s Wayne Hennessey was in top form, as he made a number of crucial saves most especially a brilliant save in the dying embers of the game. West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko almost put his side level when he was clean on goal, but Joe Allen was on hand to impede him, with the referee ruling the offense as legal, the Ukrainians could only complain.
The penalty decision has generated several reactions, most notably Dean Saunders who stated that it was a clear penalty. “For me that’s a stonewall penalty,” he said. “We’ve got away with one there, Ukraine are absolutely battering us through midfield.” He added in an honest commentary.
The Ukrainians playing even with the current attacks on their home nation by the Russians, had their best chance very late in the game when Artem Dovbyk had a perfect header saved by Wayne Hennessey, despair in the eyes of the Ukrainians who thought they had restored parity.
Tottenham defender Ben Davies followed the rebound with a remarkable clearance to further pile more misery on the Ukrainians.
The victory for the Welsh was truly remarkable given that the nation has not been at any world cup since the 1958 edition, in which they were knocked out by a young Pele. That’s 15 world cups without a single appearance for the Welsh.
However, in recent times they have been a growing force to reckon with. They have reached the knockout stages in the last two editions of the European championships. They faced their sister British nation in EURO 2016 and they face off again in November at Qatar.