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Heartbreak for Wales as Poland win on penalties to secure place at Euro 2024 | Football

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Heartbreak for Wales as Poland win on penalties to secure place at Euro 2024 | Football

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Wales miss out on a place at Euro 2024 (Picture: Getty)

Wales missed out on Euro 2024 qualification in heartbreaking fashion as Poland prevailed via a nerve-shredding penalty shootout in Cardiff to book their spot at this summer’s tournament.

The two teams could not be separated after 90 minutes and extra-time of a tense play-off final and it was visitors Poland that emerged victorious to deny Wales a place at a third successive European Championships.

The Dragons, who competed at both Euro 2016 and Euro 2020, had been itching to put in an improved performance at a major tournament in the wake of their disappointing group-stage exit at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.

Michal Probierz’s Poland – who sacked their previous manager Fernando Santos in September – set up their clash with Wales with a resounding 5-1 victory over Estonia.

An unchanged Poland spurned two early opportunities to take the lead in Cardiff, with Karol Swiderski failing to meet Przemyslaw Frankowski’s cross before Jakub Piotrowski blazed over from range.

Wales hit back at the other end of the pitch as Jordan James won the hosts a corner, though Tottenham’s Ben Davies – wearing the captain’s armband in Aaron Ramsey’s absence – headed Harry Wilson’s threatening delivery over the bar.

Just moments later, Kieffer Moore got his head on another Welsh corner as Rob Page’s men further grew into the game, but the powerful centre-forward missed the target by a distance to ensure the scoreline remained goalless.

Wales kept Poland captain Lewandowski quiet in the first half (Picture: Getty)

With ten minutes remaining of the first half, the men in red gave away possession cheaply in a dangerous position and had to scramble the ball to safety before Robert Lewandowski could make them pay.

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Wales appeared to have broken the deadlock on the stroke of half-time as stand-in skipper Davies nodded past Wojciech Szczesny to send the Cardiff crowd into raptures.

However, the home team’s joy was short-lived, with replays showing the Spurs defender had strayed marginally offside while meeting Moore’s initial header, and the goal was denied.

Davies had a goal ruled out for offside on the stroke of half-time (Picture: Getty)

Firmly in the ascendancy, Wales picked up where they left off at the start of the second half and Szczesny had to be at his very best to keep out a towering header from Moore that seemed destined for the top corner.

The visitors had a rare chance in the 58th minute and Davies did just enough make life difficult for Lewandowski, with the Poland skipper heading Piotr Zielinski’s corner high and wide of Danny Ward’s goal from six yards out.

Zielinski threatened to wrestle the game back in Poland’s favour as the second half wore on and the Napoli midfielder had his head in his hands as both Jan Bednarek and Jakub Kiwior somhow failed to connect with his fierce delivery from the left in the 64th minute.

Szczesny produced a stunning save to deny Moore in the second half (Picture: Getty)

A tame header from Moore was comfortably dealt with by Szczesny before Page decided to make the first substitution of the match, with Daniel James introduced in place of Brennan Johnson.

After Kiwior fired a wild effort well over the crossbar, a fresh-legged James broke with pace to find Wilson on the right flank. But the promising counter-attack came to nothing and Page cut a frustrated figure in the Welsh dugout.

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Wales fans had their hearts in their mouths as Lewandowksi found himself some space 30 yards out from goal, though the forward’s driven strike flew wide of Ward’s post to set the stage for extra-time.

Piotrowski impressed for Poland in Cardiff (Picture: Getty)

There were chances at both ends as the clock wound down on the first period of extra-time, with Szczesny scrambling away an inviting cross from Davies before Piotrowski came agonisingly close to finding the top corner in a frantic period of play.

Poland threw men forward as penalties beckoned and Chris Mepham was sent off for a second yellow card before referee Daniele Orsato blew his whistle to confirm a dreaded shootout.

More to follow.

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