Brilliant Bale brace secures Wales play-off final

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Wales has not qualified for a FIFA World Cup since 1958 and surely will not get a better opportunity than ahead of Qatar 2022.

Rob Page's side hosted Austria in its play-off semi-final on Friday (AEDT) and once again relied on Real Madrid superstar Bale to prove the difference in a 2-1 win.

He netted the opener with a sublime first-half free-kick, then doubled Wales' lead with another brilliant effort, placed high past the Austria goalkeeper.

Only a Ben Davies own goal – deflecting Marcel Sabitzer's shot beyond Wayne Hennessey – threatened to spoil the Wales party, as it held on despite Bale's withdrawal in stoppage-time with an apparent groin injury.

Bale will at least have time to recover from that issue before the final, as Russia's invasion of Ukraine saw the former banned from FIFA competitions and the latter allowed to postpone its semi-final against Scotland.

No date has yet been set for the Scotland tie, with Steve Clarke's men instead facing Poland – Russia's planned play-off opponent – in a friendly it drew 1-1 on Friday (AEDT).

Krzysztof Piatek's 94th-minute penalty rescued a draw for Poland, albeit that goal came earlier than Sweden's decisive strike against Czech Republic.

Sweden will be Poland's final opponent after Robin Quaison finished off a smart team move with 10 minutes remaining in extra-time after a goalless draw – that 1-0 victory teeing up the trip to Chorzow next Wednesday (AEDT).


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