World Cup heartache: Irish slay Welsh dragon, Croatia gamble pays off against Ukraine

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October 10 – How quickly emotions change in football. Having reached the semi-finals of Euro 2016 against all odds,  Wales’ 60-year wait for a place at the World Cup continues as they were beaten 1-0 by the Republic of Ireland in a winner-takes-all showdown for a playoff place for Russia.

Missing injured talisman Gareth Bale,  Wales couldn’t’ break through a resolute Irish defence as Martin O’Neill’s typically well organised team  secured second spot in Group D behind Serbia with a goal early in the second half from which Wales, who started the night above Ireland, never recovered as their hopes of reaching a first World Cup finals since 1958 evaporated.

Bale could only watch on helplessly in his seat in the stands as Wales suffered their first defeat in 12 World Cup qualifiers and their first at home for four years.Serbia beat Georgia 1-0 to win the group and qualify for Russia automatically.

Meanwhile Croatia, who gambled by appointing a new coach on the eve of their own crunch fixture, kept their World Cup hopes alive after a double from Andrej Kramaric gave them a 2-0 win over Ukraine in Kiev to reach the playoffs and wreck Ukraine’s own dreams.

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