Fri. May 27th, 2022

Wales are just two victories away from qualifying for their first World Cup finals since 1958. Watch their play-off with Austria live on Sky Sports.

You have to go back 64 years for Wales’ last World Cup play-off match when they eliminated Israel, winning 2-0 in both legs and 4-0 on aggregate. If they beat Austria this Thursday night, live on Sky Sports, just 90 minutes would separate them from a first appearance at a World Cup in 64 long years.

The winner of the Wales vs Austria semi-final will face the winner of Scotland vs Ukraine, a game that has been postponed during to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine. That fixture will now be played in June, with the play-off final to follow in the same month.

Wales might not be among the leading nations when it comes to the major tournaments, and may have already had their best-ever competition run at Euro 2016 that broke the psychological barrier of failures of yesteryear. But if this group of players – including the big names from six years ago who are coming to the end of their careers like Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey – can be the first to get to a World Cup in 64 years, then it’ll cap off an incredible period in Welsh football, and continue the momentum for the next generation.

Wales team news: Bale fit – but Moore a big miss

With goalkeeper Danny Ward and striker Kieffer Moore out injured, Wales’ side virtually picks itself, with Robert Page preferring to play three central defenders and utilise the pace and athleticism of Connor Roberts and Neco Williams as
wing-backs. The big call for Page is whether he will be conservative or bold in midfield?

Thursday 24th March 7:00pm

Kick off 7:45pm

Does he play two sitters or gamble on risk and reward? If it is the former, then Ethan Ampadu will play alongside Joe Allen with Joe Morrell suspended. The latter sees Aaron Ramsey in a deeper role to free up an attacking spot for the likes of Harry Wilson or Brennan Johnson. Gareth Bale has only played 78 minutes of club football since August whilst Aaron Ramsey has just 118 minutes in his legs since joining Rangers from Juventus, yet both are fit and available to start.

Bale: One of the biggest games of my career

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Gareth Bale says it is natural to feel nerves ahead of an important game such as Wales’ World Cup play-off semi-final against Austria.

Gareth Bale has labelled the World Cup play-off semi-final as “one of the biggest games” of his career.

Bale has trained with Wales ahead of Thursday’s showdown at Cardiff City Stadium and has been speaking about creating history by helping his country qualify for a World Cup for the first time since 1958.

“It’s going to be one of the biggest games I’ve played in for sure,” Bale said. “Having not qualified for a World Cup before, it’s something that I want to achieve, the country want to achieve, and the fans want to achieve. I guess it’s another big game we need to get ready for and take in our stride like we always do.”

Are Wales’ dynamic duo of Bale & Ramsey ready to roll?

Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey

Wales’ pair of Lamborghinis – Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey – have been left parked in the garage. Will their engines roar when unleashed in Cardiff? With the help of former Wales star Joe Ledley, Lewis Jones analyses whether a lack of game-time will have an affect Bale and Ramsey’s performance?

Read here!

What the manager says…

Wales manager Robert Page says they have been trying to treat their World Cup play-off semi-final against Austria like ‘any other game’ but insists the squad understand the importance of the occasion.

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Wales manager Robert Page says they have been trying to treat their World Cup play-off semi-final against Austria like ‘any other game’ but insists the squad understand the importance of the occasion.

Brennan Johnson: How Nottingham Forest winger is Wales’ next big hope spearheading World Cup charge

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Nottingham Forest and Wales forward Brennan Johnson says he is enjoying his football more than ever, with his current form receiving praise from Roy Keane.

There is the pressure of a 64-year absence from the World Cup on the shoulders of Robert Page’s Wales boys but winger Brennan Johnson is taking it in his stride.

There is much more to Wales than Bale and Ramsey. Having joined up with his international team-mates from his club commitments with Nottingham Forest, there is a new sheriff in town.

Read here!

What does this night mean for Welsh football?

Joe Ledley speaking to Sky Sports:

“I’m so nervous.

“It took us years to build this.

“I came through the ranks with Gareth, Aaron, Chris Gunter and Wayne Hennessey – we are all about the same age – and then the likes of Ashley Williams, Joe Allen joined. We had to stick together and change the way Welsh football was going. We had been shocking over the years.

“We always had the ability but we needed to show togetherness. And we did. Everyone started to mix in, get involved in the banter and enjoy meeting up with Wales. We started this and I’m proud it has kept going – now we are just two games away from the World Cup.

“They are my mates at the end of the day. They aren’t colleagues or teammates anymore – they are my friends. That goes a long way. I’ll be keeping in touch with these boys for the rest of my life.

“I can probably count on one hand the people I still speak to from my club days. International level is different. We always keep in touch and there is no awkwardness when we meet. The conversation is always flowing. They are excited to see you. There is so much respect and we can absolutely classify one another as friends.

“This is a massive night for Welsh football. Still got a lot of friends within the playing and coaching staff. So, it’s important they get the right result as it will only benefit the future of Welsh football with the boys and girls coming through.”

How to follow…

Watch Wales vs Austria on Sky Sports Football and Main Event from 7pm on Thursday; kick-off 7.45pm; follow our live blog from Cardiff on the Sky Sports website and app; free match highlights will be published shortly after full time.

Opta stats: Cardiff becoming a fortress

  • Wales are unbeaten in their last 16 home matches in all competitions (W11 D5), their longest unbeaten run on home soil in their history. They have only conceded five goals in these 16 games and never more than once in this run (11 clean sheets).
  • Wales are unbeaten in their last three matches against Austria (W2 D1), winning 1-0 in the most recent meeting in September 2017 in a World Cup qualifier.
  • Austria are looking for their first away win against Wales since a March 2005 World Cup qualifier under Hans Krankl, winning 2-0 at the Millennium Stadium with goals from Ivica Vastić and Martin Stranzl.
  • This is Wales’ first World Cup play-off match since 1958, when they eliminated Israel over two legs, winning 2-0 in both legs and 4-0 on aggregate.
  • Austria’s two World Cup play-off campaigns have seen them eliminated – they lost 2-1 to Sweden in a single game in November 1973 and 6-0 on aggregate against Turkey in November 2001.
  • Gareth Bale has been directly involved in more Wales goals than any other player in 2022 World Cup qualifying (3 goals, 3 assists). Across the last three World Cup qualifying campaigns, Bale has been involved in 42% of Wales’ 36 goals (11 goals, 4 assists).
  • Marko Arnautovic has been involved in 13 goals in his last 14 World Cup qualifiers (9 goals, 4 assists), although he didn’t score or assist against Wales at the Cardiff City Stadium in the September 2017 meeting. Arnautovic is Austria’s third-highest scorer in all competitions with 32 goals, behind Toni Polster (44) and Hans Krankl (34).

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