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Having beaten Scotland in an emotionally draining semi-final four days earlier, the war-torn Ukrainians were deeply impressive once again but fell just short in their attempt to reach only a second World Cup in their history.
An Andriy Yarmolenko own goal broke Ukraine’s hearts and sent Wales to the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, as Ukraine lost 1-0 in a playoff on Sunday.
Ukraine had several opportunities to level the scoring or even put themselves ahead at Cardiff City Stadium, but it was a deflected Gareth Bale free kick that resulted in them falling out of the competition and sending Wales into their first World Cup in 64 years.
Dan James won a free kick for Wales 25 yards out, and Bale stepped up to take it on 34 minutes. He whipped in the ball and it was headed in by Ukraine captain Yarmolenko.
Oleksandr Zinchenko had the ball in the net early in the first half from a free kick, but the referee called play back, as he deemed Zinchenko had taken the kick too quickly.
Ukraine were unfortunate not to get a penalty on 40 minutes when Yarmolenko went down under a heavy challenge from Joe Allen, but VAR (video assistant referee) waved away the foul.
Wayne Hennessey made a fine save late in the second half to ensure that Artem Dovbyk’s header stayed out.
Wales will join England, Iran and the United States in Group B for the World Cup, which starts on Nov. 21 and runs until Dec. 18.
As for this Ukrainian team, playing to the backdrop of Russia’s invasion of their homeland, they have been an inspiration.
They were cheered on in Cardiff by their passionate supporters, including 100 refugees who were given the tickets for free by the Football Association of Wales, while home fans showed their appreciation for the away side with warm applause before kick-off.