Ukrainian dreams shattered as Wales claim Europe’s last World Cup berth

An own goal was enough to sink Ukraine in Cardiff on Sunday, the war-torn country’s hopes of making the World Cup shattered after captain Andriy Yarmolenko found his own net with a header.

The goal, which resulted from a Gareth Bale free kick, saw Wales qualify for their first World Cup since 1958.

The win triggered scenes of jubilation across Wales, but signalled an agonising end to Ukraine’s emotionally charged campaign, which was completed by a team partly made up of players recalled from the front lines following Russia’s invasion.

Despite the loud and passionate atmosphere, Ukraine were on top from the outset and Wales keeper Wayne Hennessey was busy in the opening half, making three vital saves to keep the score level.

It was against the run of play that Wales grabbed the lead in the 34th minute, Bale firing a low free kick from 25 metres out. Yarmolenko stooped, attempting to clear the ball with his head, only to see it fly past his own helpless keeper Georgiy Bushchan.

Aaron Ramsey missed a great chance to double Wales’ lead after the break, side-footing wide from a great position and then Neco Williams drilled a well-struck shot against the post.

Back home, on the 102nd day of the war, Ukrainians took respite from the pain and suffering by watching the game from Cardiff in bars, including in the capital Kyiv, .

The spectre of the war was evident in the Welsh capital with a message of peace in English and Ukrainian on the screens in the Cardiff City Stadium. Rivalries were put aside when the Ukrainian national anthem was played and it was applauded by the home fans.

Of the 1800-seat allocation for Ukraine, 100 free tickets were given to refugees who had been forced to flee their country following the invasion in February.

Russia were banned from World Cup qualifying following the invasion.

Wales will join England, Iran and the United States in Group B at the World Cup, which kicks off in Qatar on November 21.

Reuters, AP

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