Wales beat Ukraine 1-0 to return to the World Cup stage after a 64-year-break. Andriy Yarmolenko’s own goal was the difference between the two teams in Cardiff on Sunday evening. Ukraine had beaten Scotland on Wednesday in Glasgow to reach the World Cup playoff final.
Ukraine had a better start to the game. Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey was forced into saves by Viktor Tsygankov and Roman Yaremchuk before Bale’s powerful free-kick from just outside the box was headed past Heorhiy Buschan by Yarmolenko. That made it 1-0 to Wales in the 30th minute against the run of play.
Ukraine believed they deserved a penalty in the 41st minute when Yarmolenko was tripped by Joe Allen in the Welsh box. But Spanish ref Antonio Mateu Lahoz decided against pointing to the spot after a VAR check. The match official’s decision not to award a penalty was met with criticism by those in the social media stand, as thousands questioned Lahoz’s judgment of the incident.
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Moving into the second half, Aaron Ramsey missed a great opportunity after the game was restarted. Then, Hennessey had to pull off another big save to deny Tsygankov from close range. As Ukraine pushed for an equalizer, Welsh substitute Brennan Johnson hit the post, then Gareth Bale tested Buschan. Dramatic scenes followed in the Welsh box late in the game. Yarmolenko couldn’t find the net from a few meters out, being denied at the last moment by Ben Davies. Then, Hennessey saved Artem Dovbyk’s header in the 83rd minute.
Thanks to their playoff win over Ukraine, Wales booked Europe’s last available ticket for the World Cup in Qatar. They will join the USMNT, England, and Iran in Group B.
What do the odds say about the USMNT’s group at the World Cup?
The bookies believe Wales is the second-favorite for qualification from the group stage, after England. The Welsh are now at +100 to go through to the knock-out stages, with the USMNT at +125. Iran is at +230. England stands at -300 to win Group B, with Wales at +450, the USMNT at +650, and Iran at +1100.
The US is at +450 to survive an eventual round-of-16 clash and make it into the quarterfinals, while a semifinals presence for Gregg Berhalter’s boys is at +1400. A bet on the USMNT playing the final is at +4000, with a historic triumph now at +10000.
Brazil tops the favorites’ list at the final tournament. The South Americans are at +500 to lift the trophy. Behind them sit defending champions France at +550, while England is now third at +650.