At the final whistle, the Cardiff City Stadium went up in flames. Victorious over the Ukrainians (1-0) in the final of the European play-offs, the Dragons – the nickname of the Welsh national football team – validated, on Sunday June 5, the last ticket for the World Cup in Qatar (November 21-18 december). A feat, sixty-four years after their last – and only – participation in the competition.

The joy of some contrasted with the tears of others and for the Zbirna, the dream will have been as crazy as the end is cruel. Under typical British weather, his players nevertheless delivered a fine performance, no doubt galvanized by a flag signed by soldiers on the front hanging on the wall of their locker room.

A few arbitration decisions, such as the goal denied to Oleksandr Zinchenko on a free kick taken too quickly (3rd) or a penalty denied to Andryi Yarmolenko (40th) weighed heavily. But they will especially regret the missed opportunities against goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, who was the Welsh hero of the day.

Ironically, the only goal of this close match came on a deflection of Yarmolenko’s header, following a free kick from Gareth Bale (1-0, 34th) who took Georgi Buschchan on the wrong foot .

“We must pay tribute to Ukraine”

The Welsh selection knew that this meeting would be emotionally charged, taking on a much broader stake than the strict sporting framework for their rivals, whose country has been in the grip of war since the invasion of Russian troops on February 24.

Ukrainian coach Oleksandr Petrakov, 64, had even offered to join the national army before being encouraged to focus on the objective of a second participation in the World Cup, after that of 2006.

On Sunday, the authorities had given 100 tickets to refugees, in addition to the 5% of the seats allocated to visitors in the regulations in a sold-out 33,000-seat stadium. And as in the semi-final against Scotland, Friday in Glasgow, loud applause from the players and the stands paid tribute to the Ukrainian selection and its supporters at the end of the meeting.

“I think it was probably my best game in the Welsh jersey to be honest,” Wayne Hennessey told Sky Sports after the game. But we must pay tribute to Ukraine, which is a fantastic team. »

In Qatar, the Welsh will join a very “English-speaking” Group B with their English neighbors, the United States and Iran.