Wales are just 90 minutes away from this summer’s European Championships, after their 4-1 win over Finland at the Cardiff City Stadium in the playoff semi-final.

Goals from David Brooks, Neco Williams, Brennan Johnson and Daniel James were enough to take the hosts through they look ahead to a meeting with Poland at home on Tuesday.  

It took Wales almost 60 years to make a major tournament after their last one in 1958. They were looking to make it four out of the last five in tonight’s game and they have made great strides towards reaching their goal.

Only four players remain from the 2016 squad in Danny Ward, Aaron Ramsey, Ben Davies and Wayne Hennessey. Only two, in Ward and Davies, started tonight’s game in a far different team to the one that shocked the world by making the Euros semi-finals almost eight years ago.

With Gareth Bale, arguably the greatest player the country has ever produced, now retired and Ramsey far from the player he once was, it was seen as an almighty task for Wales manager Rob Page to get this team to qualify for another major tournament. 

However, with an exciting new set of young players, this team is close to defying the odds.

  • Story of the Match

It could not have gotten off to a better start for Wales, as they took the lead three minutes into the game through David Brooks. After picking up the ball from Williams on the left-hand side, Harry Wilson sprinted forward and after a one-two with Johnson before forcing a save from Finland’s Bundesliga leading skipper Lukas Hrádecký. The ball was parried away and it found Brooks alone in the box and the on-loan Southampton man found the net to send the home crowd wild. 

The Finnish side had their chances, with Daniel Håkans blowing a great opportunity to make it 1-1, hitting his effort in the box over the ball after a flicked on header from Nikolai Alho. 

There was a period in the first half where it felt like a basketball game, with both teams creating good opportunities for themselves. Wilson was involved once again and he played a delightful through ball to Johnson, but the former Nottingham Forest attacker’s touch let him down, before Harry Wilson went down in the box from the rebound. An offside flag  on Johnson prevented any appeals for a penalty.

Wilson continued to be a threat, and his effort from long range caused a big save from Hrádecký before Chris Mepham breathed a huge sigh of relief. 

His poor pass to Ben Davies sent Teemu Pukki close to be going through on goal before the ball was eventually blocked away. However, just moments later, Wales were two goals ahead. Johnson was fouled on the edge of the box and both Williams and Wilson stepped over the ball. 

Williams won a Premier League winners medal during his time with Liverpool and set out a free kick routine that was a carbon copy of former teammate Trent Alexander-Arnold’s goal against Chelsea during that 2019/20 title winning campaign.  Wilson rolled the ball back and Williams fired the ball past Hrádecký on the goalkeeper’s side.

Just as the game seemed comfortable for Page’s men, Finland had hope as Pukki pulled one back however for the visitors just before halftime. In a move that started in their own half, they drove forward and the former Norwich striker got on the end of a touch from Joel Pohjanpalo and slotted it past Ward.

CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 21: <strong><a  data-cke-saved-href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2022/11/03/1128391-rotherham-united-vs-norwich-city-championship-preview-gameweek-20-2022.html' href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2022/11/03/1128391-rotherham-united-vs-norwich-city-championship-preview-gameweek-20-2022.html'>Teemu Pukki</a></strong> of Finland scores his team's first goal during the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs Semi-final match between Wales and Finland at <strong><a  data-cke-saved-href='https://www.vavel.com/en/international-football/2023/06/16/1149290-wales-vs-armenia-euro-2024-qualifiers-preview-group-d-2023.html' href='https://www.vavel.com/en/international-football/2023/06/16/1149290-wales-vs-armenia-euro-2024-qualifiers-preview-group-d-2023.html'>Cardiff City Stadium</a></strong> on March 21, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 21: Teemu Pukki of Finland scores his team's first goal during the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs Semi-final match between Wales and Finland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 21, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

More of the same from Wales

Wales started the second half just as they did the first half, with another early goal. Just two minutes into the second half and they were once again two goals clear. 

Wales had a free kick, which was taken by Wilson. It was knocked down by Ethan Ampadu, who tonight became the youngest player to reach 50 international caps. Brooks scuffed effort found Johnson, who comfortably slotted past Hrádecký to double the host’ lead once again to delight the Welsh faithful despite initial VAR fears. These were quickly quashed away after the Spurs forward was played on by the falling Håkans.

CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 21: Brennan Johnson of Wales celebrates scoring his team's third goal with Neco Williams and David Brooks during the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs Semi-final match between Wales and Finland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 21, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images)
CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 21: Brennan Johnson of Wales celebrates scoring his team's third goal with Neco Williams and David Brooks during the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs Semi-final match between Wales and Finland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 21, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Ryan Hiscott/Getty Images)

Finland caused a threat but Wales dealt with their danger well in the second hal. In truth, they were second best all game.  

Wales thought they had made it 4-1 when Davies' header was deemed to be over the line  by goalline technology, before Joe Rodon was ruled to be offside and interfering with play. However, they would soon make it four as James capitalised on a huge defensive error.

Finnish centre back Miro Tenho failed to deal with the long ball forward and his poor touch allowed James to capitalise, cooly taking it around Hrádecký and into the net to secure their place on Tuesday's playoff final. 

There could be an argument to be made that this was Wilson’s best game in a Wales shirt. Everything that went right for Wales, he was usually involved. He tested Hrádecký multiple times, whether this was shots from range, his set pieces, or his overall play.

CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 21: <strong><a  data-cke-saved-href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2024/01/13/premier-league/1168559-chelsea-1-0-fulham-post-match-player-ratings.html' href='https://www.vavel.com/en/football/2024/01/13/premier-league/1168559-chelsea-1-0-fulham-post-match-player-ratings.html'>Harry Wilson</a></strong> of Wales is challenged by Rasmus Schuller of Finland during the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs Semi-final match between Wales and Finland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 21, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)
CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 21: Harry Wilson of Wales is challenged by Rasmus Schuller of Finland during the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs Semi-final match between Wales and Finland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 21, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Dan Mullan/Getty Images)

He made the pitch his playground, easily getting past the Finland players and making it look effortless as he glided around the pitch.

He may not have scored, but he was the most integral player on the pitch tonight. He was a constant threat and will be a player this team will rely on against Poland.