Wales overcame another monumental effort from Ukraine to qualify for their first World Cup since 1958 on a night of high emotion and drama in Cardiff.
Having beaten Scotland in an emotionally draining semi-final four days earlier, the Ukrainians – amid the backdrop of their country being embroiled in war with Russia – were deeply impressive once again but fell just short in their attempt to reach only a second World Cup in their history.
Instead, it was Wales who achieved that feat at a delirious Cardiff City Stadium.
Their winning goal came against the run of play as Gareth Bale’s first-half free-kick was inadvertently headed in by Ukraine captain Andriy Yarmolenko, a particularly cruel way for the visitors to concede having dominated before then.
Both teams tired but threw players forward in a chaotic second half, with Bale wasting a golden opportunity and substitute Brennan Johnson hitting the post for Wales.
Ukraine also had several chances to equalise but were repelled by the phenomenal goalkeeping of Wayne Hennessey and defending of Ben Davies.
Speaking on the huge win for wales, Bales said: “The result is the greatest in Welsh football history,” Bale told Sky Sports. “We’re going to a World Cup!
“It means everything, what dreams are made of, we’ve been working towards it since I first came in here.
“Words can’t describe how we feel at the moment.”
On whether possible retirement plans would be put on hold, he added: “Maybe for a little bit!”
“There was a lot of emotion in this game, but we stood up brilliantly,” defender Ben Davies said to Sky Sports. “Every challenge they threw at us we dealt with.
“It’s incredible, a dream come true, as a squad we’ve worked so hard for this.
“We may not have the most talented group but we give it everything we have got.”
Wales manager Rob Page told Sky Sports: “I’m so proud of the guys, they thoroughly deserved it.
“The one thing these boys were missing was a World Cup and now we’ve got there.
“These are the best supporters in world football, they helped us from the first minute.
“When you see what these guys do in training, I had full trust in them.”
Stat Fact: The last time Wales played at the World Cup, they were knocked out by a goal from a 17-year-old Pele