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Wales one game from Euro 2024 after beating Finland

Wales are one win away from qualifying for Euro 2024 after dispatching Finland 4-1 in Cardiff, to set up a play-off final against Poland on Tuesday night.

Harry Wilson was the star of the show by being heavily involved in the first three goals – the opener coming just three minutes in through David Brooks before the Fulham winger teed up Neco Williams from a free-kick to fire a top corner rocket to double the lead.

Teemu Pukki pulled one back for Finland right on the stroke of half-time, but Wales quickly re-established their two-goal lead after the break as Wilson’s brilliant set-piece delivery caused havoc, culminating in Brennan Johnson tapping home from close range.

Wales saw a fourth goal from Ben Davies ruled out for a foul by Joe Rodon but sealed the result when Dan James punished some comical Finnish defending to finish into an empty net.

Neco Williams celebrates after putting Wales 2-0 up against Finland
Image: Neco Williams celebrates after putting Wales 2-0 up with a fine finish

The result means only Poland stand between Rob Page’s side and a third consecutive European Championships campaign in Germany this summer. Robert Lewandowski will take his Poland side – who beat Estonia 5-1 on Thursday night – to Cardiff on Tuesday night.

Wales player ratings

Wales:Ward (6); Mepham (7), Rodon (7), Davies (7); Roberts (7), Ampadu (8), James (7), Williams (8); Brooks (8), Johnson (7), Wilson (9)

Subs:Moore (7), James (7), Broadhead (n/a)

Player of the match:Harry Wilson

“It could have been five or six!” said Page after the game. “It goes to show how far we’ve come.

“But the message is: it’s half time. We have a massive effort to go again on Tuesday, we can’t wait.

“These supporters, they are immense and they’ve helped us again tonight. Bring on Tuesday.”

How Wales got half the job done

Cardiff was raucous in the pre-game atmosphere and national anthem – but that noise reached new levels just three minutes in.

Team news

  • Wales went with Danny Ward in goal as Rob Page settled his goalkeeper dilemma.
  • Page also picked David Brooks in the attack over Kieffer Moore, who settled for a place on the bench.
  • Captain Aaron Ramsey was fit enough to be named amongst the substitutes, but was unused on Thursday night.

Wilson’s slick one-two with Ethan Ampadu saw the former released in the box, and while Lukas Hradecky was equal to his effort across goal in the Finland net, Brooks was on hand to smash home the rebound with a volley.

That fast start was nearly met by a quicker response from Finland as Daniel Hakans blazed a good chance over from close range after latching onto Robin Lod’s testing delivery, before Pukki tested Danny Ward’s gloves at the near post after breaking through down the left.

David Brooks celebrates his early opener for Wales
Image: David Brooks celebrates his early opener for Wales

Finland continued their pressure as Hakans air-kicked another good chance in the box, before Joel Pohjanpalo’s rebound was blocked by Davies.

Meanwhile, Wales showed their counter attacking threat as Johnson crashed an effort into the side netting, before Wilson curled a shot straight at Hradecky.

Another counter saw Johnson fouled on the edge of the box and that’s how the second goal came. Wilson teed up Williams from the set piece, with the defender crashing home into the top corner as Cardiff’s noise canon exploded again.

Wales thought they were rounding off a perfect first-half performance when Finland struck. Pohjanpalo poked a loose ball through to Pukki and he kept his cool to beat Ward at his near post with style. The nerves returned.

But they quickly vanished just two minutes into the second half. Once again, the magical Wilson was behind it, as his superb free-kick delivery found Ampadu at the back post. He headed it back to Brooks, whose shot was turned in by Johnson from close range.

Brennan Johnson put Wales 3-1 up against Finland
Image: Brennan Johnson put Wales 3-1 up against Finland

That result knocked the stuffing out of Finland, as Wales threatened to add to their lead. Wilson, who deserved a goal all night, curled just wide after cutting inside, while substitute Keiffer Moore saw one effort saved by Hradecky, then headed over from a resulting corner.

Wales thought it was four when Davies headed home from a corner but VAR ruled it out for Rodon blocking Hradecky from the set piece.

It was eventually four when James picked last man Robert Ivanov’s pocket in some clumsy defending – leaving James with the simple task of rounding Hradecky before slotting home.

Page: Wales players scoring for clubs is paying off

Wales manager Rob Page to S4C:

“We got off to the best start didn’t we? We started both halves really well. It was a bit uncomfortable in the first half with the possession. We had to address a couple of things at half-time, how we pressed and we needed more pressure higher up the pitch. And we were much more comfortable in the second half.

“We’re disappointed with the goal we conceded. Sometimes you can’t help it [with the centre halves]. I’ve been in that position myself, you’re tracking your runners and you bump into each other and Pukki isn’t going to miss from there. It made for an uncomfortable few minutes but to start the second half in the way that we did was credit to the lads again, I thought they were excellent.

“Brennan has put in a performance in like, Harry Wilson [too]. Kieffer Moore made an impact when he came on and Dan James scored on his 50th cap. I’m so made up for him as it goes to show the confidence he’s got.

“We’ve got players coming off the bench, who are full of confidence, coming off the bench and scoring goals for their clubs – that’s why DJ gets his goal tonight.

“It’s half-time, we are going to enjoy the win but we’re going to build on this again and take it into Tuesday.”

Williams: We don’t stop here now

Neco Williams rifles in from a free-kick
Image: Neco Williams rifles in from a free-kick

Wales defender Neco Williams to S4C:

“Great performance, we came into this game with a game plan. And I think it worked out as good as it can go. The only negative from the night was that we conceded, but when we score four goals, it puts you in a good place. It’s a good stepping stone for our next game on Tuesday.

“It [my goal] wasn’t planned or anything, it was just instinct. It was nice to score for my country, it’s a special feeling to win. But to score was the cherry on the top. An excellent performance all round and a good stepping stone for Tuesday.

“We won our semi-final, we have a final now on Tuesday. We don’t stop here now. We have one more game to go. Hopefully we put in a good performance to go to the Euros.”

Analysis: Wales show there’s life after Bale

Is this a new generation of Wales players coming through?
Image: Is this a new generation of Wales players coming through?

Sky Sports News’ Geraint Hughes in Cardiff:

“Rob Page, his coaches and the technical director at the FAW will see tonight’s comprehensive victory as vindication of their ‘transition’ post World Cup in Qatar and life after Bale.

“A young team with senior pros continued its development – far too good for Finland. Yes, a tougher test comes next week, but this wasn’t a squeaky 1-0 win.

“And… who stayed on the bench, who wasn’t required? Aaron Ramsey. Not because he’s nothing to offer, my word I’m sure he does, but Wales didn’t need him.

“Page believes in this group and tonight they repaid his faith in them. Roll on Tuesday…”

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Former Wales international Rob Earnshaw claims that Rob Page’s side now look a real threat after beating Finland 4-1 in the UEFA European Championship qualifier in Cardiff.

Former Wales striker Rob Earnshaw on Sky Sports News:

“Earlier in the qualifiers they didn’t really have a style or know what they were doing. Tonight they were excellent. Possession, clean, comfortable…

“Rob Page said in the week they were relaxed and knew the job they needed to do and it looked like it. Harry Wilson excellent, David Brooks coming in, excellent. In midfield, Ethan Ampadu, 50th cap, 23 years old, really good. He and Jordan James running the midfield. That made a big difference, that central midfield. And Dan James coming on and scoring the goal.

“They were brilliant tonight. If you think what Wales are now, they need to be a team. A few years ago the super, superstar of Gareth Bale winning us game after game after game. He’s gone. Now they look like a team and all over the pitch there are threats.”

What’s next for Wales?

Wales‘ attention now turns to the Euro 2024 play-off final at home to Poland on Tuesday night, kick-off 7.45pm.

Rob Page’s side then travel to Slovakia for an international friendly on June 9, with a kick-off time yet to be confirmed.

Should they qualify for Euro 2024, then Wales would be paired in a group with Netherlands, Austria and France.

Sky News
(c) Sky Sports 2024:Source