Moment of Truth
March 26, 2024
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April 21, 2024

Heartbreak for Wales

By Satish Sekar © Satish Sekar (March 26th 2024)


Poland seized the last qualification for Germany’s Euro2024 in dramatic fashion as Wales missed out with the last kick of the match. Two hours of football could not separate Wales and Poland – it went to penalty kicks with Poland winning the shootout 5-4. Substitute Daniel James was the unfortunate man to fail to score – Roma’s goalkeeper Wojciech Szczeşny saved James’ effort to his right.

It was as cruel a way as was possible to miss out on a major tournament. Wales’ manager Rob Page made it clear that they won and lost as a team, and that he was excited about Wales’ future. However, when asked if there was a better way to settle qualification issues said, “I’m going to say, not penalties.”


With so much at stake – the last possibility of a berth in Germany’s Euro2024 – it was a cagy affair with chances few and far between. Wales’ had perhaps the better chances and had the ball in the back of net once. For the second time in the Path A play-offs Ben Davies scored only for it to be chalked off for offside. Kiefer Moore headed on a throw-in to Davies, but Wales’ skipper had strayed offside, which was rapidly verified by VAR.

Poland’s captain Robert Lewandowski is having a poor season by his high standards at Barçelona, but his national coach, Michał Probierz stressed that he had no concerns about Lewandowski’s form for his club, and that Lewandowski had sacrificed himself for the Polish team in the way he was playing for them.

Meanwhile, despite Poland having the greater possession, Wales had the best chance, but Moore’s header was denied by a great save by Szczeşny. In the first period of extra time Jakub Piotrowski’s shot from just outside the area curled just wide of the far post, but not even extra time could deliver a goal. In added time at the end of the second period Chris Mepham was sent off for a second yellow card as he caught substitute Taras Romanchuk in his follow through.


Poland had a mixed record in penalty shootouts. They beat Switzerland, but lost to eventual champions Portugal in Euro2016. Wales had never participated in one before tonight. Poland were perfect from the spot. Lewandowski and his opposite number Davies took the first penalties for their teams – both scored. Sebastian Szymański and Kiefer Moore were next and both scored – Moore off the crossbar.

Przemyslaw Frankowski gave Danny Ward no chance as he found the top corner to the Welsh keeper’s right – the best penalty of the ten. Harry Wilson kept the scores level before Nicola Zalewski and Neco Williams made it 4-4. Krzysztof Piatek made it 5 out of 5 for Poland – all to Ward’s right – meaning Daniel James who had been played out of position had to score to keep Wales in with a chance of qualification, but his penalty was saved by Szczeşny to his right.

Poland had seized the last spot in Euro2024.

Wales’ Future

Page made it clear that he wants to continue as Wales’ manager, and is already looking at ending the transitional phase by taking his young charges to the 2026 World Cup on North America. He intends to bring more young players through, but the process won’t be rushed.

That World Cup will be the first since FIFA expanded the tournament to 48 teams – a third of which will come from Europe. The 12 group winners will qualify and all 12 second placed teams, along with the 4 UEFA Nations Cup winners will play a semi-final with the winners meeting for the chance to join the 12 group winers in the 4 paths.

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