Wales beats Ukraine 1-0 to end 64-year wait for World Cup return

Wales’ Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring his side’s opening goal during the World Cup 2022 qualifying play-off soccer match between Wales and Ukraine at Cardiff City Stadium, in Cardiff, Wales, Sunday. (Rui Vieira/AP)

CARDIFF, Wales — Gareth Bale led Wales to the World Cup for the first time in 64 years by beating Ukraine 1-0 to take the final European spot in Qatar on Sunday, ending war-torn Ukraine’s bid for qualification.

The only goal of an emotionally charged, tight game in a rainy Welsh capital came when Bale’s free kick in the 34th minute was inadvertently headed into his own net by Andriy Yarmolenko.

Wales will now open at the World Cup against the United States on Nov. 21 before playing Iran and England. The Welsh also played their neighbors at the 2016 European Championship when they lost to England in the group stage but still went on to reach the semifinals at their first tournament since the 1958 World Cup. The trip to Qatar gives Bale — British soccer’s most decorated foreign export at Real Madrid — a chance to finally play on the sport’s biggest stage. But the five-time Champions League winner is without a club for next season after being released by Madrid. While saying he has “loads” of offers, the 32-year-old free agent had been coy about his playing future.