'Little old Wales at a World Cup, eh? - 64-year wait ended as Ukraine's dream is cruelly ended

Wales have ended a 64-year absence from the World Cup after booking their place at Qatar 2022 with a 1-0 play-off victory over Ukraine in Cardiff.

Gareth Bale of Wales celebrates with teammates after their victory over Ukraine.
Gareth Bale of Wales celebrates with teammates after their victory over Ukraine.

A deflected first-half free-kick from Gareth Bale was enough to give them victory at a rain-soaked Cardiff City stadium, with Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey making a series of crucial saves to keep Ukraine at bay.

It was a gut-wrenching outcome for the Ukrainians, who dominated large parts of the match following on from their semi-final victory over Scotland at Hampden, but could not find a way past a resolute Welsh rearguard. The Ukraine players were left tears at the end as they went over to acclaim their supporters, with emotions so high due to the war going on in their homeland.

The evening belonged to Wales, however, who are finally back on the global stage. They have qualified for the past two European Championships but have not competed at a World Cup since 1958, where they lost 1-0 to Brazil in the quarter-finals in Sweden. They will now take their place in Group B of the tournament in November and will take on England. the United States of America and Iran.

"I'm so proud of these boys," said Wales manager Robert Page. "I keep saying how good they are, the one thing that was missing for them was a World Cup. We've done it, we've got there.

"The atmosphere here in Cardiff was incredible. These are the best supporters in world football, I'm telling you. They helped us from the first minute right to 9th minute. They deserve a lot of credit.

"People asked me before the match if I was nervous, but I was more excited because I trust in these lads. When you see what they do in training, you have complete faith in them."

Aaron Ramsey, who spent the second half of this season on loan at Rangers, played the full match and added: "Little old Wales in a World Cup, eh? It doesn't get much better than this.”