Wales miss out on place at Euro 2024 after losing to Poland on penalties

Despite the disappointing result, fans paid tribute to Rob Page's men and urged them to "keep playing."

Wales missed out on a place for UEFA Euro 2024 in the most heart-breaking way imaginable, going down on penalties to Poland in Cardiff.

It was a nervy affair in the Welsh capital and there was nothing to separate the sides after 120 minutes. And after nine successful penalties from both sides, Daniel James had his decisive spot kick saved by Wojciech Szczesny.

The opening exchanges played out in an electric atmosphere after a rousing rendition of Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau. No quarter was given out in the middle during a cagey opening ten minutes but it was clear that Poland possessed more quality than Finland last Thursday.

There were no real chances to speak of, though, as both teams grappled it out for the ascendency. Poland had done their homework and Wales' pacey widemen were marshalled very closely.

Wales' Harry Wilson and Poland's Jan Bednarek battled for the ball. Credit: PA

But then the visitors carved an opening. Karol Swiderski was a yard away from getting a toe on Przemyslaw Frankowski's ball in behind. Any deflection on the cross could have sent it into Ward's net.

Moments later, Jakub Piotrowski's long-range effort was well off-target but Poland were beginning to settle quicker and enjoyed most of the ball.

Ben Davies lost Robert Lewandowski from a corner, which usually spells danger, but the ball just evaded the Barcelona striker. Wales then broke up the field to earn a corner themselves but the ball ricocheted between skipper Davies and Kieffer Moore to end up just over the Polish goal.

There were plenty of nerves out on the pitch with neither side willing to chance their arm too much. Harry Wilson made a burst into a dangerous area but no red shirt made a run to get on the end of his dangerous ball across the six-yard box.

On the stroke of half time, Wales thought they'd gone ahead. Moore rose to meet a ball into the box and headed the ball towards Davies. The skipper nodded it beyond Wojciech Szczesny only for celebrations to be cut short as the assistant raised his flag for offside.

Wales' Ben Davies celebrated scoring his side's first goal of the game before it was ruled out for an offside. Credit: PA

That was just about the last act of the a tense opening 45 minutes, with nothing to separate the sides.

Shortly after the break, Moore won a free-kick midway inside Poland's half. He then rose to meet Neco Williams' set piece only for his looping header towards the far corner to be saved brilliantly by Szczesny.

Poland then enjoyed a dangerous attack as the game approached the hour mark. Joe Rodon stretched to nod away a cross and Ethan Ampadu threw himself in front of a shot from outside the box. Then Lewandowski's diving header flew off-target but it all served as a warning for Wales.

Rodon had to step in again minutes later when Frankowski whipped another dangerous ball into the Welsh box. Then Jakub Kiwior failed to keep a difficult chance down and Rodon had to flick another one away from Lewandowski yards out from Danny Ward's goal. Wales were second to the loose balls - these were concerning moments for Page and his men.

With 20 minutes to go, the game was being played on a tight-rope. Some good play from Johnson on the far side fashioned another chance for Moore. But the big striker's header bounced harmlessly into Szczesny's arms.

Wales' Connor Roberts attempted to clear the ball under pressure from Poland's Robert Lewandowski. Credit: PA

With eight minutes to go, right wing-back Connor Roberts left the field with an injury, pushing Page into an aggressive switch. On went David Brooks, pushing fellow substitute Daniel James into a more defensive role.

In the closing minutes of the match, neither side were prepared to take too much of a risk. Lewandowski had a go from distance but it went wide of Ward's right-hand post.

There was nothing between the teams when the full-time whistle went and the game headed to extra time.

Some very neat link-up play between James and Wilson led to the later being cynically fouled by a tired Pawel Dawidowicz. The free-kick was around 30 yards out but it had the attention of Williams and Wilson himself. The latter shoved it straight into the wall.

A loose ball in the Poland box narrowly evaded Daniel James and then the visitors broke up the field, a move that culminated in Piotrowski's curling effort not curling enough.

After threatening up one end, the Polish midfielder then gave the ball away to Moore in a dangerous area. But the Welshman had neither the energy nor the guile to make a scrambling Poland defence pay.

Wales' Kieffer Moore battled for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifying clash. Credit: PA

After 15 minutes of extra time, there was still nothing to break the deadlock and penalties loomed.

In the early knockings of the second period of extra time, Poland were the ones forcing the issue and Wales looked out of ideas, having to make a number last-ditch efforts in defence.

With five minutes remaining, Daniel James made the latest block in his own box and Moore rose to clear. But Wales couldn't get out and then Mepham had to scramble it clear before Nathan Broadhead earned a throw-in to relieve some of the pressure.

In added time, Chris Mepham was sent off after picking up a second yellow card for a lunging tackle that displeased referee Daniele Orsato.

He will have breathed a massive sigh of relief when the free-kick, the final action of the normal play, was headed away by Ampadu.

Now it was down to penalties and they'd take place in front of the Red Wall that filled the Canton Stand.

Wales fans belted songs from the stands ahead of the penalty shoot-out. Credit: PA

Lewandowski sends Danny Ward the wrong way. Wales 0 Poland 1.

Ben Davies thumps it down the middle. Wales 1 Poland 1.

Szymanski scores and then Moore rattles it in off the cross bar. Wales 2 Poland 2.

Brilliant penalty from Frankowski. Ward no chance. Wales 2 Poland 3.

Harry Wilson down the middle. Wales 3 Poland 3.

Another cracking penalty from Poland. This time it's Zalewski. Wales 3 Poland 4.

Neco Williams right in the corner. Wales 4 Poland 4.

Piatek sends Ward the wrong way. Dan James must score. Wales 4 Poland 5.

He misses and that's it. There's no summer adventure for Wales this year. Poland go through to Euro 2024.

Wales looked dejected following the penalty showdown. Credit: PA

Wales XI: Ward; Roberts, Mepham, Rodon, Davies, Williams; Ampadu, J James; Wilson, Johnson, Moore.

Subs: Hennessey, King, Fox, Brooks, Ramsey, Matondo, Savage, Cullen, Dasilva, D James, Sheehan, Broadhead.

Poland XI: Szczesny; Bednarek, Dawidowicz, Kiwior; Frankowski, Zielinski, Slisz, Piotrowski, Zalewski; Swiderski, Lewandowski.

Subs: Bulka, Skorupski, Puchacz, Walukiewicz, Salamon, Bochniewicz, Piatek, Moder, Romanczuk, Szymanski, Grosicki, Buksa.