eWorld Cup UEFA qualification play-off semi-final, Cardiff City Stadium – Wales 2 (Bale 25′, 51′) Austria 1 (B Davies 65′ OG).
Wales are one game away from qualifying for the World Cup for the first time since 1958, having beaten Austria 2-1 to triumph in their play-off semi-final at the Cardiff City Stadium.
A deafening rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau set the tone for the evening, with the stands crackling with anticipation at kick off. Both sides seemed to feed off the atmosphere, with a frantic, end-to-end start punctuated by a smart through-ball from Marcel Sabitzer which saw Christoph Baumgartner steal in behind and rattle the post.
Wales came right back at their opponents, with Connor Roberts and Neco Williams creating a succession of chances from the wing-back positions. The hosts won a menacing free kick when Harry Wilson drove towards the box and was body checked by Baumgartner, with Gareth Bale stepping up to take it.
In a moment which encapsulated Bale’s talismanic influence for his national side, he lifted the ball over the wall and sent it dipping into the top corner with impossible ease. Austria goalkeeper Heinz Lindner could only watch as it dropped into the back of the net, sending the home crowd into raptures.
Wales adopted a counter-attacking stance for the rest of the first half and, despite ceding the majority of possession to Austria, looked far likelier to score. Only a fingertip save from Lindner at full stretch stopped Aaron Ramsey from extending their lead, with the ball rippling the outside of the net instead of whistling in at the near post.
The game looked to be over and done with when, five minutes after the restart, Wilson won the ball high up the pitch and moved it on to Dan James, who won a corner. The pair played a short one-two before James whipped an inswinging cross into the box and, via a steadying touch from Ben Davies, found Bale.
Despite the fact he was moving away from goal, he somehow managed to turn on his heel and leather into the far corner. Once again, Cardiff shook with the force of a man-made earthquake.
Wales got a scare when, a little over 20 minutes later, Davies scored an unfortunate own goal while attempting to block a shot from Sabitzer. The ball ricocheted off his boot and bounced over Hennessey, giving the visitors hope.
Wales’ back line held strong, however, with Joe Rodon particularly impressive at the heart of defence. The final whistle was met with an outpouring of emotion in the stands, with Wales now set to face either Scotland or Ukraine for a place at Qatar 2022.