Wales miss out on Euro 2024 qualification

Wales fell at the final hurdle of Euro 2024 qualification in their play-off against Poland. Wales had home advantage

Wales fell at the final hurdle of Euro 2024 qualification in their play-off against Poland. Wales had home advantage, with the one-off tie played in the capital of Cardiff at the Cardiff City Stadium. Despite a packed house and a largely dominant display, they failed to take their chances as the goalless game meandered to a penalty shoot-out.

With Poland inching into a 5-4 lead as the sudden death penalties loomed, Leeds United winger, Dan James, stepped up and saw his tame spot kick comfortably saved by former Arsenal stopper, Wojciech Szczesny. The defeat for Wales means there’ll only be two representatives from the UK at this summer’s Euro 2024 finals.

At the time of writing, Wales’ long-time rivals, England, are considered joint favourites to win Euro 2024. The Three Lions are priced at +350 in Betano’s futures sports betting market for this summer’s European Championships, sharing the favourite tag with the French, closely followed by Germany (+600).

Wales wouldn’t have troubled the teams at the top of the Euro 2024 winner’s market, but they would have arguably brought more to the competition than a Polish side that showed precious little quality on the ball throughout. In fact, despite having Robert Lewandowski leading the line, Poland managed no shots on target throughout the entire 120 minutes of play.

A tentative first half all round

With so much at stake in this one-off encounter, it was unsurprising that the opening exchanges of the game would be tense and nervy. Neither side were able to dictate possession and probe their respective opposition backlines. Although it was Wales who were generally the busier and more industrious of the two sides, Poland really lacked composure in the middle of the park and the lack of a genuine flair player meant Lewandowski was having to feed off scraps for the most part.

In fact, set pieces were the main goal threat in the first 45. A long throw from Connor Roberts sparked panic in the Polish penalty area and Wales skipper, Ben Davies, narrowly diverted his header over the crossbar.

Davies thought he had nodded the hosts in front shortly after from yet another set play. The deep cross was headed back across goal by Kieffer Moore for Davies to divert in beyond Szczesny. The celebrations all around the stadium were short-lived as the linesman raised his flag for offside against the Tottenham defender.

The second half was equally cagey

Wales’ centre forward, Kieffer Moore, was their primary target man. The 31-year-old, currently on-loan at Championship promotion hopefuls, Ipswich Town, thought he’d scored early in the second half. Moore guided a looping header into the far corner, only to watch Szczesny tip the ball away at the last moment with a fine stop.

It was a sign of Poland’s impotency that their own talisman, Lewandowski, had been very subdued throughout. His first major involvement in the final third came from a corner kick. The Barcelona front man could only divert Zielinski’s corner kick over the bar with a header.

The game inevitably drifted to extra time, with neither side able to break the deadlock. The additional half-hour proved tricky for Wales, who looked to lose their stamina, particularly in the second period. The final 15 minutes of extra time saw Poland largely camped in the Welsh half, probing for an opening which never arrived.


The Poles needn’t have worried, though. Their team was flawless in the penalty shoot-out. All five of their penalties were struck with precision and power, with no hint of nerves. After Poland’s fifth consecutive penalty conversion, Dan James stepped up knowing a miss would result in a Welsh exit. His nerves were there for all to see as the Leeds wide man stroked a tame spot kick to Szczesny’s right, which the experienced stopper repelled to send Poland to the Euros.

Wales boss, Robert Page, insists it’ll now be business as usual, with his long-term future not in question. Page’s focus will immediately shift to rebuilding the team for a tilt at 2026 FIFA World Cup qualification, where Toronto is set to be one of the host cities.

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