On a night of intense passion and drama in Cardiff, Wales qualify for their first World Cup since 1958. After defeating Scotland in an emotionally taxing semi-final four days earlier, the Ukrainians were once again extremely impressive. But came just short of reaching only their second World Cup in history.
Wales accomplished the feat at a euphoric Cardiff City Stadium. Gareth Bale’s first-half free-kick was clumsily headed in by Ukraine captain Andriy Yarmolenko. It was excruciating for the visitors to surrender after dominating up to that point.
In a hectic second half, both teams rushed men forward. Bale missed a fantastic opportunity, and Wales’ substitute Brennan Johnson hit the post.
Ukraine had many chances to equalize. But they were denied by Wayne Hennessey’s superb goalkeeping and Ben Davies’ defense.
This was hardly a vintage Welsh performance. But they played with tenacity, and the scenes of euphoria inside a thunderous Cardiff City Stadium demonstrated how cathartic it is for this footballing nation to end its 64-year World Cup wait.
Wales can now look forward to competing in football’s most prestigious tournament in November. They will join England, the United States, and Iran in their group in Qatar.
This Ukrainian squad has been an inspiration while playing against the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of their nation.
However, Wales’ slogan in the build-up to this game – as cold as it may have seemed – was that they needed to remove emotion from the situation and momentarily set their compassion aside.