Wales 0-0 Poland: Poland reach EURO 2024 after penalty shootout win over Wales
CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 26: The players of Poland celebrate after victory in the penalty shoot out during the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs Final match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 26, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Wales suffered heartbreak, as their dreams of reaching EURO 2024 were dashed at the final hurdle, losing to Poland on penalties after a 0-0 at the Cardiff City Stadium.

Both sides had their chances in the game, with Wales feeling they would had the better of the chances.

Neither team could be separated after 120 minutes of football and in the end, it was Daniel James who was the unlucky victim, as his effort was stoped by Wojciech Szczęsny, the only missed penalty of the shootout.

Rob Page's side will feel proud to have come so far, when they were not fancied at the start of qualifications after losing Gareth Bale to retirement.

Just ten years ago, the Welsh national team had not made a major tournament for over 50 years.

They missed out on the chance against Poland to reach their fourth major tournament out of a possible five.

Heartbreak will be the initial reaction from the fans, but losing in playoff finals is a far cry from years and years of qualification campaigns being more or less over after four games.

  • Story of the match

The game started off cagey and uneventful, a far cry from Thursday’s game in Cardiff. It then started to kick into action as both teams had chances in a frantic ten-minute spell. 

The first real chance came for Poland, as Przemysław Frankowski played a teasing cross to the stretching Karol Swiderski, who could not get the all-important touch on the ball to test Welsh goalkeeper Danny Ward. 

Wales then took the chance to get into the game, as Ben Davies and Kieffer Moore both battled to get on the end of an in-swinging Harry Wilson corner, with the former getting the touch and his header going just over the bar. 

The hosts continued to look a threat, with Brennan Johnson’s speed pressuring Poland to concede a corner just minutes later.  

Whilst Wales did not make the most of the corner, it was an encouraging sign as they looked to assert their dominance on the game. 

This continued as Connor Roberts’ long throw was flicked on by Joe Rodon, but this asked too much of Moore to get any sort of effort on goal. Yma o Hyd was sung loud around the stadium, as the fans could sense the opportunity for the taking.

The home crowd thought they had taken the lead on the stroke of halftime, as Davies’ goal was ruled out for offside. 

One of the four survivors from Euro 2016, Davies got onto the end of a Moore flick on as the final minute of added time elapsed.

There was a VAR check but no goal was given, despite the tightest of margins.

CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 26: Wojciech Szczesny of Poland reacts as Ben Davies of Wales scores a goal which is later disallowed for offside following a VAR review during the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs Final match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 26, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)
CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 26: Wojciech Szczesny of Poland reacts as Ben Davies of Wales scores a goal which is later disallowed for offside following a VAR review during the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs Final match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 26, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Richard Heathcote/Getty Images)

Wales did everything but score, and would have been wondering at halftime whether they were going to regret those chances. 

A second half on edge

The first half may have had gotten off to a slow start, but the same cannot be said about the second half, as Wales forced a save from Szczęsny.

Neco Williams’ free kick was met by the head of Moore, whose effort forced a brilliant save from the former Arsenal shot stopper in the top right corner.  

After a busy start to the half, the game experienced a lull.

Poland started to get into the game, with Robert Lewandowski allowed a rare chance in the box, but his effort going over the bar after some good defensive pressure from Davies.

CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 26: <strong><a  data-cke-saved-href='https://www.vavel.com/en/international-football/2022/11/30/1130928-preview-poland-vs-argentina-world-cup-group-c-round-3-2022.html' href='https://www.vavel.com/en/international-football/2022/11/30/1130928-preview-poland-vs-argentina-world-cup-group-c-round-3-2022.html'>Robert Lewandowski</a></strong> of Poland reacts during the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs Group A match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 26, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Pawel Andrachiewicz/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images)
CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 26: Robert Lewandowski of Poland reacts during the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs Group A match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 26, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo by Pawel Andrachiewicz/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images)

They continued to threaten, with Frankowski’s cross headed away by Rodon and Arsenal’s Jakub Kiwior failing to hit the target with his effort in the box a few minutes later .

Moore hit a header straight at Szczęsny, who later denied Chris Mepham from a similar position. The game was evenly poised.

As the clock hit the 90 minute mark, Lewandowski threatened to end the game, as he was allowed space just outside the box, but his effort went wide of the goal.

A cagey extra time

Extra time started and Wales almost thought they had their opener, as Davies’ cross was met by Szczęsny before Jakub Piotrowski almost silenced the home crowd with a stunning effort from the counter attack that former. 

Nicola Zalewski found Piotrowski, who took a breather before shooting from range and his effort narrowly missed the target to relieve the Welsh faithful.

CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 26: Jakub Piotrowski of Poland takes a shot on goal during the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs semifinal match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 26, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales.(Photo by Pawel Andrachiewicz/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images)
CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 26: Jakub Piotrowski of Poland takes a shot on goal during the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs semifinal match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 26, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales.(Photo by Pawel Andrachiewicz/PressFocus/MB Media/Getty Images)

Poland had their chances and continued to threaten, whilst Wales looked more and more tired.

Mepham received a second yellow card in stoppage time but penalties would soon loom. In the end, it was a cagey affair in extra time as Wales underwent their first ever penalty shootout. 

Meanwhile, it was Poland's first since bowing out to Portugal in the quarter finals in Euro 2016.

In the end it was Poland who prevailed and Szczęsny was the hero. Both teams were perfect until Daniel James stepped up, as his effort was saved to send the visitors through to Germany.

Wales had their chances, and Szczęsny came up with multiple big saves that kept the game level.

Whether it was Moore or Mepham, the Juventus keeper made some crucial saves at a period where Wales were on top.

CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 26: Poland players jump on team mate Poland's Wojciech Szczesny after winning the penalty shootout during the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs Final match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 26, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales.(Photo by Ian Cook - CameraSport via Getty Images)
CARDIFF, WALES - MARCH 26: Poland players jump on team mate Poland's Wojciech Szczesny after winning the penalty shootout during the UEFA EURO 2024 Play-Offs Final match between Wales and Poland at Cardiff City Stadium on March 26, 2024 in Cardiff, Wales.(Photo by Ian Cook - CameraSport via Getty Images)

He saved his best work for the shootout, making the only save as he sent his country to this summer's Euros. 

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