Wales Defeats Ukraine, Clinches Spot in USA's Group at 2022 World Cup

Rob Goldberg@@TheRobGoldbergFeatured Columnist IVJune 5, 2022

Wales' striker Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring the opening goal during the FIFA World Cup 2022 play-off final qualifier football match between Wales and Ukraine at the Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, south Wales, on June 5, 2022. (Photo by Paul ELLIS / AFP) (Photo by PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images)
PAUL ELLIS/AFP via Getty Images

Wales secured a spot in the 2022 World Cup with a 1-0 win over Ukraine in Sunday's qualifying playoff.

The only score in the match was an own goal in the 34th minute, starting from a Gareth Bale free kick:


BALE WITH THE BREAKTHROUGH FOR WALES 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 <a href="https://t.co/UOEvPHo7rp">pic.twitter.com/UOEvPHo7rp</a>

It was enough to help Wales earn a ticket to Qatar, the nation's first World Cup appearance since 1958.

Wales will be placed in Group B at the World Cup alongside the United States, England and Iran. The squad will face the United States national team on Nov. 21 in the first match of the tournament for both sides.

UEFA qualifying was initially scheduled to conclude in March, with Portugal and Poland each earning spots through four-team playoffs. The third path was postponed amid Russia's military invasion of Ukraine.

Despite the ongoing conflict, Ukraine's national team returned to the pitch and defeated Scotland 3-1 in a semifinal match last Wednesday. The squad was looking to keep the momentum going in Cardiff on Sunday, but it fell short of the World Cup.


We’re inspired by the courage shown by the Ukraine Men’s National Team. <br><br>We stand with you.🇺🇦 <a href="https://t.co/SBZXYWzhvY">pic.twitter.com/SBZXYWzhvY</a>

Ukraine did create the majority of chances in this match, holding 68 percent of possession while outshooting Wales 22-10, per ESPNFC.

The difference was the play of Welsh goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, who tallied nine saves in an incredible performance:

The Analyst @OptaAnalyst

Wayne Hennessey was the hero for Wales, with nine saves to prevent Ukraine from scoring. 🏴󠁧󠁢󠁷󠁬󠁳󠁿 <a href="https://t.co/OnS4yXmkY3">pic.twitter.com/OnS4yXmkY3</a>

Lewis Oldham @LewisOldham99

Take a bow Wayne Hennessey, was on fire to keep Ukraine out. <br><br>Was a great tie that, congratulations to Wales. <a href="https://twitter.com/hashtag/WALUKR?src=hash&amp;ref_src=twsrc%5Etfw">#WALUKR</a>

James Tyler @JamesTylerESPN

Hennessey, Hennessey,<br>Ain’t no goalie as good as he

Tottenham defender Ben Davies also made several key plays to keep Ukraine off the scoresheet.

The visiting team thought it had a goal in the third minute when a quick free kick went in the net, but it was called back because the referee had not set the ball. In the 40th minute, Ukraine was seeking a penalty that was never called.

It added up to a clean sheet for Hennessey, while Wales needed just one magic moment for the go-ahead goal and eventual win.