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Wales vs Austria LIVE: World Cup play-off result and reaction as Bale double has Wales one game from World Cup

Follow reaction from the Cardiff City Stadium as Wales move one win away from a first World Cup since 1958

Michael Jones
Thursday 24 March 2022 22:32
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Bale on World Cup ambitions

Follow all the reaction as Gareth Bale’s brilliant double sees Wales beat Austria 2-1 in the World Cup play-off semi-finals to move just one victory away from Qatar 2022.

Wales will now face either Scotland or Ukraine in the play-off final for a place in Qatar, however, that match has been postponed due to Russia’s continued invasion of the latter. If Rob Page’s men win that, they will reach the World Cup for just the second time in their history and for the first occasion since 1958.

Wales are now unbeaten in eight matches and although there was pre-match doubt over the fitness of Bale - who has played just 77 minutes of competitive football since November - he stepped up to deliver for his country the way he has done so many times before.

He curled in an exquisite free-kick in the first half and made it 2-0 with a snap finish into the corner after the break. Marcel Sabitzer pulled one back for Austria when his shot cruelly deflected in off Ben Davies but Wales held on to move just 90 minutes away from fulfilling their dream.

Follow all the reaction and analysis as Wales beat Austria:

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Gareth Bale’s brilliance propels Wales past Austria and into World Cup play-off final

On Thursday morning in Madrid, one frothing Spanish columnist derided Gareth Bale as a “blood-sucking parasite” with less good grace than a flea, louse or bedbug. As night fell over Cardiff, and the day’s humidity gave way to the night’s intoxicating celebrations, how those insects would have loved to spring, dart, dive and bite with the same skill and venom as Bale did so spectacularly in Wales’ 2-1 victory over Austria in their World Cup play-off semi-final.

There is hardly a need for Bale to add to his Wales legend, even as his club career recedes into the sort of unsavoury and expensive twilight that causes Real Madrid fans such incandescence. His desire is questioned on a daily basis, his paltry contribution of 77 competitive minutes since November stoking their sense of indignation. Such is the myth of his indifference that it has been repeatedly suggested Bale could retire when his contract expires in the summer if Wales fail to reach the World Cup later this year.

That would be a crying shame and tonight’s evidence might turn that froth into envious bile, such is the degree that Madrid might feel short-changed. Because when Bale dons a Wales shirt, he seems to instantly transform into that younger version of himself who could illuminate any stage. Here he was irrepressible, unshackled and oozing a level of class no other player inside Cardiff City Stadium could dream of matching. The same class that, perhaps, no other in a Welsh shirt has ever mustered. Bale was no so much blood-sucking as the vital artery, his two goals - a free-kick so precise it could offend the rust of an anonymous season and a snapshot so short and sharp it left Austria’s goalkeeper virtually motionless - leaving Wales just one match away from their first World Cup since 1958.

Gareth Bale brilliance propels Wales into World Cup play-off final

Wales 2-1 Austria: The Welsh captain scored two spectacular goals to leave Wales just one match away from their first World Cup appearance since 1958

Michael Jones24 March 2022 22:00
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Who has qualified for 2022 World Cup and which teams can still make it?

The race for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar is heating up with a number of countries competiting for the final automatic qualification spots ahead of next week’s group stage draw.

Germany and Denmark became the first teams to book place their place and join hosts Qatar in the tournament later this year, and they were soon followed by the likes of defending champions France as well as England, Brazil, Argentina and Spain.

There will still be a few spaces to fill, however, with the inter-continental play-offs set to take place in June, while a play-off final between either Ukraine or Scotland vs Wales will also not take place until around that time.

Who has qualified for 2022 World Cup and which teams can still make it?

The draw for the World Cup takes place on April 1

Michael Jones24 March 2022 21:57
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Wales 2 - 1 Austria

Elsewhere tonight, European Champions Italy have been knocked out of the World Cup play-offs by North Macedonia! Aleksandar Trajkovski scored in injury time to give the North Macedonians a famous 1-0 win.

They now will face Portugal – who beat Turkey 3-1 - in the final.

Italy fail to qualify for the World Cup for a second consecutive time.

Michael Jones24 March 2022 21:55
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Wales 2 - 1 Austria

Gareth Bale scored his seventh direct free-kick goal for Wales, with his first and most recent such goals for the national team being separated by 15 years and 168 days (October 2006 vs Slovakia, March 2022 vs Austria).

Michael Jones24 March 2022 21:47
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Wales 2 - 1 Austria

The celebrations are still going on. The Wales fans are singing the anthem, the players are cheering and huggling. They make their way around the pitch, waving and clapping to their supporters.

It’s a brilliant sight to see.

Michael Jones24 March 2022 21:45
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Wales 2 - 1 Austria

Wales are one win away. One win away from the World Cup, one win away from a tournament they last played in 1958.

They’ll face either Scotland or Ukraine in June for the honour.

Can Gareth Bale lead them to victory again? He did it tonight.

Michael Jones24 March 2022 21:40
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Full-time: Wales 2 - 1 Austria

90+4 mins: Wales have done it! They’ve beaten Austria and are into the World Cup play-off final! Gareth Bale take a bow, two goals from Wales’ talisman was enough to get the job done.

The noise inside the City Stadium is fantastic, the Welsh fans are loving this.

Michael Jones24 March 2022 21:39
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Wales 2 - 1 Austria

90+2 mins: The ball keeps coming into the Wales box, Ben Davies blocks and clears one shot then Wayne Hennessey grabs hold of an effort from Marko Arnautovic.

Gareth Bale is being taken off. He’s earned all the applause he gets as Chris Mepham comes on to replace him. Two minutes to go.

Michael Jones24 March 2022 21:37
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Wales 2 - 1 Austria

90 mins: Four minutes of added time to play! Four more minutes for Wales to see out.

Michael Jones24 March 2022 21:34
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Wales 2 - 1 Austria

89 mins: Wales win a free kick deep in Austria’s final third after Harry Wilson is hacked down by Stefan Lainer. Brennan Johnson comes on to replace Dan James for Wales before the set piece is taken.

What’s Aaron Ramsey done there? It looks as though he’s caught between taking a shot and putting in a cross and does neither. Instead he boots it straight out of play for a goal kick.

Michael Jones24 March 2022 21:33

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