🌍 WC play-offs: Italy are OUT! Bale inspires Wales; late Lisbon drama | OneFootball

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Padraig Whelan·24 March 2022

🌍 WC play-offs: Italy are OUT! Bale inspires Wales; late Lisbon drama

Article image:🌍 WC play-offs: Italy are OUT! Bale inspires Wales; late Lisbon drama

There were four World Cup semi-final play-off fixtures across Europe on Thursday night, featuring some big names.

This is what went dow …

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North Macedonia eliminate Italy at the death

Scorers: Trajkovski 90+2′

A stunning last minute goal from Aleksandar Trajkovski incredibly sent North Macedonia into the World Cup play-off final at the expense of European champions Italy in one of the greatest qualification shocks ever.

In a goal-less first half, Italy were almost gifted a goal when goalkeeper Stole Dimitrevski passed the ball straight to Domenico Berardi but he rolled a weak attempt back into the man between the post’s arms when he seemed certain to score.

The Sassuolo man was guilty of further misses after the interval as the Azzurri toiled further and they were incredibly sent packing two minutes into injury-time when former Palermo man Trajkovski scored on his former stomping ground with a fantastic finish from range that found the bottom corner.

That goal incredibly means Italy, who were unbeaten in their qualification group, have failed to qualify for a second successive World Cup, while North Macedonia advance to face Portugal.

Late Lisbon drama as Portugal advance

Scorers: Otávio 15′, Jota 42′, Nunes 90+4′; Yilmaz 65′

Despite an anxious finale in Lisbon, Portugal edged out Turkey to advance to a home play-off final next Tuesday night.

The first real chance of the game came for Portugal after 10 minutes when the in-form Diogo Jota somehow steered an attempt over the bar from three yards out while unmarked but it didn’t take long for them to open the scoring.

Otávio pounced fastest from close range when a low strike from the edge of the area came back of the post and the Porto man steered his attempt into the gaping goal.

Jota then did get his goal shortly before half-time when Otávio picked him out with a perfect far post cross and he thumped a low header in at the near post.

Turkey set up a nervy finish 20 minutes into the second half when a neat passing move set Burak Yilmaz in on goal and he made no mistake to reduce the deficit before they were awarded a penalty with six minutes remaining for a clumsy José Fonte kick.

That allowed Yilmaz the chance to set up extra-time but he shockingly blasted over the top to end his side’s hopes of qualification for Qatar, allowing Matheus Nunes to put the seal on things in injury time.

Bale brilliance puts Wales within one

Scorers: Bale 25′, 51′; Davies OG 64′

An incredible brace from Gareth Bale fired Wales to within one game of their first World Cup appearance since 1958 as they overcame Austria in Cardiff.

Christoph Baumgartner missed a glorious chance within the first five minutes when he was played in on goal but delayed his strike enough for some last-ditch defending to steer it on to the bar.

And Wales punished them after 25 minutes when Gareth Bale curled an outrageous free-kick from the corner of the penalty area high into the roof of the net for a stunning opener.

Only an exceptional save from a powerful Aaron Ramsey drive prevented Rob Page’s men from adding to the advantage before the half-time whistle.

Six minutes after the break, they doubled their lead from the most familiar source as a short corner and low delivery wasn’t dealt with by Austria, allowing Bale to collect and fire into the top corner.

But Austria pulled one back when Marcel Sabitzer’s deflected effort from the edge of the area took a huge deflection off Ben Davies to loop over Wayne Hennessy, although they couldn’t find the leveller as Wales set up a home June play-off against either Scotland or Ukraine for a place in Qatar.

Sweden send Czechs packing in ET

Scorers: Quaison 110′

Sweden needed extra-time to finally overcome the Czech Republic in Stockholm and set up a play-off final against Poland.

The visitors had an early goal ruled out following a scramble in the box which did result in a VAR check before it was determined that an infringement had taken place in the only major incident of a tense 90 minutes.

In extra-time, Sweden finally broke the deadlock when a delightful quick passing move cut the Czech Republic open, allowing Robin Quaison to steer his strike into the net and send the home crowd wild.