Wales’ current generation of talents have been making history since 2016, qualifying for the first time to the Euros and reaching 3rd place in their maiden attempt. While they did not do as well in last year’s edition of the continental competition, they remain in contention for a return to the World Cup 64 years since their first and to this day only appearance, back in 1958, thanks to beating Austria 2-1 today in UEFA’s World Cup qualification playoffs.
Chelsea defender Ethan Ampadu took part in this historic event where Gareth Bale was the standout by scoring the two Welsh goals on minutes 25 and 51. The first one was just a piece of fine art in the form of a free kick.
GARETH BALE! OUT OF THIS WORLD pic.twitter.com/JcNsViMiMp— ESPN FC (@ESPNFC) March 24, 2022
Ampadu and his team did their best to keep tensions to a minimum and guarantee a clean sheet against the Austrians. This was made extremely difficult by Marcel Sabitzer’s goal 64 minutes into the match, putting Wales on tortoise mode until the final whistle.
Luckily for them, extreme defence paid off. They are now off to play against the winners of Scotland vs. Ukraine, the match postponed to June due to Russia’s invasion of the Eastern European country — and the deciding Path A match to follow.
Path C was regarded as the most difficult to predict from the moment it was drawn, thanks to “heavy hitters” Italy and Portugal’s presence. Portugal showed their strength by beating Turkey 3-1, pushed forward by the home crowd who saw Brazilian player and FC Porto attacking midfielder Otávio, as well as Porto-born striker Diogo Jota, score their first two goals at Estádio do Dragão.
The Italians were expected to do the same against North Macedonia. Last Euro winners were supreme in every statistical aspect you can think of except goalkeeper saves, with the Azzurri trying 32 shots against the Macedonian’s posts as Chelsea midfielder Jorginho and co. had every amount of time and space on the ball to create chances.
But even as an aspiring statistician, there is no denying the “romantic” aspect of football being this crazy sport where sometimes these just do not matter. It is basically what took place today when Aleksandar Trajkovski’s strike took down one of the WC favourites out of contention to even enter the competition.
Euro Champion Italy got eliminated by North Macedonia!— Mahfuz Salekin (@MahfuzSalekin) March 24, 2022
Football! Bloody HELL! pic.twitter.com/LeOPUCqVow
And just like that, Italy misses a second consecutive World Cup as North Macedonia moves ahead to face Portugal in the final Path C match. All thanks to a former Chelsea trialist and his team’s desire to go all in against a four-time world champion.
Football is just awesome.