There is one spot left at the World Cup from the European continent and it will be filled on Sunday when Wales square off against Ukraine in Cardiff in the final of the play-off with so much on the line for both teams.
These two nations don’t get the opportunity to play at a World Cup very often so this was going to be a huge occasion for both teams anyway but with all that is going on in the world at the minute it feels even bigger than it might have done.
Where to watch
The match has been made available on terrestrial TV as well as Sky so you can see the game on ITV1, Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Football. The build-up to the contest begins at 4pm with kick off in Cardiff at 5pm.
Although they haven’t competed at a World Cup for a long time, Wales have been at the last two European Championship tournaments so they do have experience in qualifying for competitions and they will be hoping to use that to their advantage on what has the potential to be a nervy occasion here. Wales are at home and will have a raucous crowd behind them but Scotland had that on Wednesday evening and it did them no good.
Wales go into this match off the back of a defeat in their opening game of the UEFA Nations League on Wednesday evening but we should acknowledge that barely anyone who will start this match played for any significant period of time in that game. The concern over Wales though is their defence. It started to creak at Euro 2020 and it hasn’t really tightened up at any stage since then. That is going to put pressure on them to deliver the goods at the attacking end of the pitch.
The Ukrainians will head to Cardiff full of confidence after a really convincing win over Scotland on Wednesday evening. They beat Scotland 3-1 but they were a lot more dominant than that score and they head into this match with everyone who is not of a Welsh persuasion rooting for them to win and qualify for the World Cup to offer some comfort to those who are going through the difficult scenes back in their own country.
Ukraine are a little similar to Wales in a lot of ways. Although they didn’t concede many goals in qualifying I do think they offer more going forward than they do in defensive areas. Their goalkeeper looks a bit of an accident waiting to happen so I expect Ukraine to look to control the ball in the Wales half of the field and use their Premier League class to take advantage of the home defence. It was evident against Scotland that Ukraine are carrying more determination than normal.
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Robert Page is expected to recall all of his senior starters which will include Gareth Bale despite a lack of minutes at Real Madrid towards the end of the season. Joe Allen and Aaron Ramsey are expected to start but Joe Rodon is a doubt.
Ukraine have no need to make any changes to a winning combination from Wednesday night. Oleksandr Zinchenko will once again continue to operate in the middle of the park despite being a left-back for his club.
There is too much on the line for me to bet on the outcome of this match with any assurance. My gut feel is that Ukraine might be a shade overpriced to qualify but I don’t think there is enough in the margins to take them with any confidence. I certainly wouldn’t want my cash tied up and relying on their keeper to help me out so I’m going to head to the side markets for a bet on the game and the one which interests me is the total goals.
You tend to find in matches of this magnitude that the goal line is on the low side and that is the case here. The lazy thinking is that teams will play not to lose rather than to win and cancel each other out and I must admit with how desperate Ukraine are to reach the World Cup for their people that is what I expected to happen against Scotland but they took the game to their opposition and I would expect no different here given how successful they were. Wales need to play in the other half of the pitch so I actually think there will be goals in this game given the quality both teams have in forward areas. The goal line for this one is two and I like the over there safe in the knowledge that we get our cash back if only two goals are scored.
Back Over 2 goals for a 3/10 stake at 1.87 with Bet365