Wales sink Finland to book playoff final clash with Poland

football21 March 2024 22:15| © AFP
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Ben Davies of Wales celebrates with Joe Rodon © Gallo Images

Wales will face Poland for a place at Euro 2024 after powering to a 4-1 win against Finland in the play-off semifinals on Thursday.

Rob Page's side stormed into a two-goal lead thanks to strikes from David Brooks and Neco Williams in Cardiff.

Teemu Pukki reduced the deficit just before the break, but Brennan Johnson and Daniel James netted in the second half to keep Wales' Euro dreams alive.

Bidding to reach a third consecutive European Championship, Wales will take on Poland in the playoff final at the Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday.

Poland were 5-1 winners against Estonia in their semifinal on Thursday.

After failing to qualify for a major competition for over 50 years following their appearance at the 1958 World Cup, Wales are one win away from making it to a fourth tournament in their last five attempts.

In their first qualifying campaign since the retirement of Gareth Bale, Wales are proving they can cope without the former Real Madrid and Tottenham star.

The 2016 European Championship semifinalists look battle-tested in the race to reach the finals in Germany after previously surviving play-off pressure to reach the 2022 World Cup.

With the atmosphere already deafening prior to kick-off, Brooks raised the decibel levels even louder in the third minute.

Page's team tore through the Finland defence as Harry Wilson found space for a low shot that Finland keeper Lukas Hradecky could only parry to Brooks, who kept his composure as he volleyed into the roof of the net from 12 yards.


Brooks's goal repaid the faith shown in him by Page, who had opted to select the on-loan Southampton forward instead of the more physical Kieffer Moore.

After returning in 2023 from a battle with cancer, Brooks has struggled to recapture the promise he showed earlier in his career, making his goal an especially sweet moment for the 26-year-old.

Daniel Hakans should have silenced the raucous crowd, but the Finland forward volleyed over from a dangerous position inside the Wales area.

Pukki lacked his usual predatory ability when he shot weakly at Danny Ward after breaching the Wales offside trap.

The hosts made the most of those escapes by doubling their lead in the 35th minute after Johnson's incisive raid won a free-kick on the edge of the area.

Working a clever set-piece routine, Wilson back-heeled the ball into Williams' path and the defender's superb strike bent around the crumbling Finland wall into the top corner.

Pukki is Finland's all-time leading scorer and the 33-year-old striker gave them a lifeline on the stroke of halftime.

Picked out by Joel Pohjanpalo's astute pass, Pukki calmly slotted in the 40th goal of his international career.

Wales were unfazed and delivered the knockout blow 78 seconds after the interval.

Ethan Ampadu headed across goal to Brooks, whose miscued shot was converted by the unmarked Johnson from close-range.

James capped a memorable night for Wales when he stole possession from the lumbering Miro Tenho and stroked a low finish past Hradecky in the 86th minute.