71 mins: Sydorchuk and Shaparenko are on for Ukraine.
Brennan Johnson replaces James for Wales.
69 mins: Davies puts in another fine tackle to stop an attack. He is having a cracking game for Wales.
Zinchenko gets the wrong side of the defence inside the box but his cross finds no one and goes out for a goal kick.
67 mins: Malinovskyi gets the ball 25 yards out, shifts it onto his left foot and lets fly but the ball bounces just wide.
65 mins: Bale shows signs of what he can do by slipping his marker on the left flank but his cross is a poor one and is cleared.
63 mins: Wales break and Ramsey dinks a pass through for James – he whacks a shot from 15 yards which hits a Ukraine defender and loops onto the top of the net.
61 mins: “I won’t name names in order to protect the guilty but one of the commentators on the feed I’m watching keeps saying YOU-kraine (or EWE-kraine),” emails Peter Oh. “Ukraine are creating some good stuff now. Surely they deserve an equaliser?”
They have been the better side for the majority of the match.
59 mins: Yarmolenko is penalised for handball inside the Wales box by Lahoz, who gets a first cheer of the match from the home crowd.
An incredible last-ditch tackle from Davies stops Yarmolenko from having the chance to tap home from about eight yards. Incredible defending.
“At least fans booed Mike Dean, Jon Moss with a smile,” says Yash Gupta. “Lahoz on the other hand trash.”
57 mins: Bale has been pretty anonymous in this half …
55 mins: Ramsey chests down a ball into the box by Davies and then whacks it across goal but a blue shirt is there to meet it.
Ramsey is brought down by Zinchenko but Lahoz plays on because he loves life too much.
Ukraine should v level! Mykolenko sends in a low cross into the box; Tsygankov slides a shot at goal only to see it his Hennessey’s feet and Yaremchuk fluffs his lines with the rebound, sending it wide.
53 mins: James has started very brightly after the break; the winger and Williams on the left could cause a lot of problems for Ukraine.
51 mins: Lahoz jogs over to the sidelines to book Page for his protestations relating to the treatment of James by the Ukraine defence. Oh Lahoz, you are awful.
49 mins: Wales break from their own box thanks to fine work from Williams, who gets it up the pitch to James, he dribbles inside and picks out Moore on the left, allowing him to cut it back for the onrushing Ramsey who finishes poorly to send the shot wide from 12 yards.
47 mins: Lahoz has a word with the Ukraine coach to tell him to calm down. The Spaniard gives him a little tap on the belly too.
Here we go again!
“I’ve watched many matches refereed by Lahoz,” says Joe Pearson. “I don’t think I’ve ever seen him go to VAR once. It’s like he feels ‘whatever decision I made is correct, and don’t bother me with evidence to the contrary’.”
“How was that not a penalty?” asks Ciaran Brennan. “I know it was purely accidental from Allen but surely Yarmolenko won it did he not?”
I thought it was a penalty. Maybe it wasn’t clear and obvious or something odd.
Ukraine are the better side (just) but Wales have the all important goal and with the visitors’ lack of match fitness, it could be a tough second half for Ukraine.
45 mins: A Ukraine corner comes in from the left and whacks Roberts right in the testicles but luckily lands at the feet of Hennessey.
Two minutes added on.
42 mins: I feel Wales will just be keen to get to half time at this stage. Their best play currently is Hennessey which implies how the games is going.
Referee Lahoz lambasts James for running into Karavaev and tells the two players to get up. Lahoz really is a dreadful ref to watch.
40 mins: Yarmolenko goes down in the box in dramatic fashion after coming on Allen’s blindside and being caught on his heel. VAR takes a long look after Zinchenko has a shot palmed behind for a corner. No penalty!
38 mins: Moore wins a couple of battles with Zabarnyi to give the crowd another boost. Wales are really giving it their all in every challenge.
36 mins: As I said, Bale is the man for the big occasion.
Meanwhile, in Kyiv …
James wins another free-kick. Bale lines up the shot from 25 yards, he fires it across goal from the left and the ball is headed into the his own net by the Ukraine captain Yarmolenko.
32 mins: Yaremchuk plays a beautiful first time pass into Tsygankov’s path but Hennessey rushes out to snuff out the danger at the cost of a corner.
Mykolenko goes into the book after putting an arm across James to stop the Welshman’s run. There are some claims of an elbow being involved but that would be a silly description.
30 mins: Yarmolenko cushions the ball inside the box before lifting a cross into the six-yard area with the outside of his boot, only to see Ampadu head clear.
Zinchenko pings a shot from 25 yards a few seconds later but Hennessey gets behind it. Ukraine are stepping things up here.
28 mins: Bale has not brought much to the party yet. He has not played much football in recent times and it does show. He is the man for the big occasion, though.
26 mins: Bushchan is hobbling around his own penalty area. Will he be able to carry on?
Zinchenko hammers a shot into Ampadu’s stomach and he needs a few seconds after to get his composure back.
24 mins: Ramsey sends in a beautiful cross from the right but it is just over James’ head and Moore can’t get there quick enough to head home. A let-off for Ukraine.
22 mins: Bale takes his first shot at goal; he collects a knockdown from Moore and then whacks a shot ludicrously high and wide from about 35 yards. I assume he is just getting his eye in.
Panic in the Wales box. A cross reaches Karavaev but he mishits his first attempt and his second is half-blocked before looping into Hennessey’s arms.
20 mins: Bushchan is down having treatment and gets plenty of spray on his ankle. He is up and seems happy to carry on, which will please the Wales widemen.
18 mins: Wales chuck a deep cross into the box; Bushchan comes to take it but punches the ball behind instead. Luckily for the goalkeeper the referee calls a foul. Wales will be looking to stick more crosses in the box judging by that.
16 mins: Wales are enjoying a healthy spell of possession but Ukraine are keeping them at bay.
14 mins: The Ukraine fans are making a helluva noise inside the stadium. They will not be drowned out by the home fans.
12 mins: Yaremchuk beats the offside trap to get beyond the Wales defence; he goes one-on-one with Hennessey and tries to go across the goalkeeper, who gets down well to stop the shot and the defence mop up.
“According to Martin Tyler on ITV there’s no goal-line technology as the Welsh FA decided it wasn’t worth the extra expense,” says David Wall. “How is that allowed, that something affecting how the rules are applied is left to the discretion of the home federation? it’s not like watering the pitch, or letting it grow a bit longer, that might just affect how well teams can carry out certain styles of play (and that might be considered fair for the home team to choose about). If the home federation can’t afford it then Fifa should pay, it’s not as though they don’t have enough money.”
Hmmm … you’d think you would not want to take any risks which what’s at stake. Odd decision from the Welsh FA.
10 mins: Ukraine have a couple of corners in quick succession but Hennessey and the defence deal with the situation.
8 mins: Williams collects a crossfield pass by Bale, cuts inside and tries a shot from distance. The ball drifts wide but it is a good sign of intent from Wales.
Down the other end … Tsygankov hits a low drive which is going wide but Hennessey palms it behind just in case.
Stuart Rarity says: “Whenever I’m watching a game and don’t have a particular dog in the fight, so to speak, I decide on who to support by backing the side that has the most correct numbers on the jerseys; ie 1 to 11. Tonight, that means Ukraine, so, sorry Wales, looks like you’re missing out again.
6 mins: Davies pings a shot from 30 yards which is deflected behind. James swings in the corner from the left which Bushchan, who looked suspect against Scotland, punches clear.
4 mins: Zinchenko takes a quick free-kick which catches out Hennessey and ends up in the back of the net but the referee calls it back. Malinovskyi takes the free-kick legally by thundering his shot straight at the goalkeeper.
2 mins: Ukraine have started well, enjoying the majority of the ball. Their quality is undoubted but their stamina will come into question later in the game due to the fact a number of their team is lacking match practice.
Joe Allen goes into the book after catching Stepanenko. James is also cautioned by Antonio Miguel Mateu Lahoz for a moan.
Peep! Peep! Peep! Here we go!
The roof comes off for the Welsh anthem.
The Ukrainian players belt out the anthem while swaddled in their nation’s flag.
Here come the players …
“There’s been lots of talk of all neutrals rooting for Ukraine,” says Duncan Edwards. “I’m not Welsh but not only do I want Wales to qualify, I actually wanted them to beat Scotland in this game to reset the heartbreak of the 1978 qualification campaign. Would also like Dan James to prosper.”
Only 15 minutes until kick-off. The stadium is filling up in Cardiff, the rain is falling. Things are about to get serious.
The aforementioned flag in the Ukraine changing room.
Do it for Bubbins!
“Sitting here in Victoria, BC, I am truly torn,” admits Bob Zoellner. “No ties to either, but would love to see Ukraine in the World Cup, but also want to see Bale and Ramsey there, too. Hope for a clean, non-controversial match!”
David Brooks on his health: “I feel alright, day-to-day-wise it’s getting back to normality. It’s quite a surreal feeling to get the all clear. To think six to eight weeks ago I was still on treatment schedules shows how quickly it can turnaround.”
And also fantastic to see David Brooks speaking on Sky. He could help inspire a Wales win.
Sky have the great Cliff Jones on discussing Wales’ 1958 World Cup qualification. A class act of a man.
Bale’s last big chance …
Matt Dony emails: “Best case scenario – Wales finally qualify for their second World Cup, which is a dream for so many of us. But it’s the most controversial World Cup in history. And everyone will hate us. Should that happen, the actual World Cup campaign will be amazing, whatever happens. Finally seeing these players on that stage will make my heart burst. But it will have a bittersweet element. Wales losing today would be a heartbreak. There’s no two ways about it. But if I had to pick any team to potentially lose to, it’d be these. Just hoping for a decent game, no controversy, no reliance on luck. Just the better team to win. Can’t argue with that, whichever way it goes.”
Wales: Hennessey, Roberts, Rodon, B Davies, N Williams, Ampadu, Ramsey, Allen, James, Moore, Bale.
Subs: Ward, A Davies, Gunter, Mepham, Wilson, Johnson, Morrell, Norrington-Davies, J Williams, Harris, Thomas, Matondo
Ukraine: Bushchan, Karavaev, Zabarnyi, Matvienko, Mykolenko, Malinovskyi, Stepanenko, Zinchenko, Yarmolenko, Yaremchuk, Tsygankov.
Subs: Sobol, Bondar, Syrota, Sydorchuk, Dovbyk, Pyatov, Mudryk, Pikhalyonok, Kacharaba, Zubkov, Riznyk
Obviously, we also have a piece from Mr Wales himself Elis James. Wishing Elis all the best today with the match and his cancelled house move.
Wales will be inspired by this Dafydd Iwan.
Ben Fisher has the details …
There’s plenty of stuff to get you in the mood for this match starting with Ed Vulliamy …
Here we are. The final European place at the World Cup later this year will be decided in Cardiff today.
Wales host Ukraine in one of the most emotionally charged games in history. The visitors arrive with the support of the world following Russia’s invasion. A national flag sent from the frontline will adorn the changing rooms at the Cardiff City Stadium an indication of how football and war are intertwined in this qualification campaign. Qualifying for the Qatar 2022 will mean the world to Ukraine.
For Wales this is a final chance for Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey to qualify for the World Cup and they will be desperate to achieve it in front of their home fans. Undoubtedly, the atmosphere in the Welsh capital will be a raucous one as, for 90 minutes, the host cannot afford to show sentimentality. There is plenty at stake for Wales, too, that’s for sure.
Ukraine made relatively light work of Scotland in the semi-final, so are coming into this joust in fine form. They have had a few days to recover emotionally from the victory in Glasgow and regain their equilibrium.
Whatever the outcome, it will be an incredible result for one nation. Let’s just hope it’s a cracker of a match to take someone to Qatar 2022.