World Cup play-off semi-finals: wins for North Macedonia, Portugal, Sweden and Wales | European qualifications

North Macedonia, Portugal, Sweden and Wales are one game away from the FIFA World Cup after winning their play-off semi-finals on Thursday. wraps up the action.

Path A

Wales 2-1 Austria

Wales’ Allen: ‘We dare to dream’

Wales captain Gareth Bale scored two superb goals in Cardiff to send his side into the Path A play-off final. After Christoph Baumgartner’s fifth-minute goal rattled the crossbar for the visitors, the Country of Wales dominated much of the first half. Bale curled in an accurate free kick to put the hosts ahead and added a second after the break with a dazzling finish. Marcel Sabitzer’s 65th-minute response gave Austria hope, but Wales held on to deliver a decisive game against Scotland or Ukraine.

Key stat: Bale has been directly involved in more Welsh goals than any other player in the 2022 World Cup qualifiers (five goals, three assists).

The other Path A play-off semi-final, between Scotland and Ukraine, has been postponed.

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Path B

Sweden 1-0 Czech Republic (ap)

Robin Quaison celebrates his overtime goal for Sweden

Robin Quaison celebrates his overtime goal for SwedenGetty Images

Clear chances were rare throughout a tense game at Friends Arena in Solna, with Dejan Kulusevski twice coming close for the home side in the first half while Czech substitute Milan Havel seized a glorious chance in the last seconds of regulation time. That miss proved costly in the 110th minute, with Swedish substitute Robin Quaison playing a one-two with Alexander Isak and calmly scoring his 12th goal for his country.

The winners will face Poland – who received a bye – in the Path B play-off final.

Key stat: Sweden have won their last ten home matches.

Path C

Italy 0-1 North Macedonia

North Macedonia enjoy shock win over Italy

North Macedonia enjoy shock win over ItalyDeFodi Images via Getty Images

Aleksandar Trajkovski scored in added time as North Macedonia stunned Italy to set up a play-off final against Portugal. Italy dominated much of the match but failed to find a breakthrough, with the best chance of either half falling on Domenico Berardi. The Azzurri were paid in the 92nd minute when Trajkovski fired a low shot from 25 yards.

Key stat: Italy is the fourth EURO holder not to qualify for the next World Cup, after Czechoslovakia (1978), Denmark (1994) and Greece (2006).

Portugal 3-1 Turkey

Diogo Jota scored Portugal's second against Turkey

Diogo Jota scored Portugal’s second against TurkeyGetty Images

Portugal survived a late scare to advance to the Path C play-off final. Otávio put them ahead on a rebound after a shot from Bernardo Silva hit the post, and the Porto man then snagged a cross for Diogo Jota just before the break. Although Burak Yılmaz pulled one back, the Turkey captain missed the shot late to allow Matheus Nunes to calm lingering nerves in injury time.

Key stat: Portugal remains a phantom team for Turkey; they lost all six of their competitive matches against the Seleção, conceding 14 goals and scoring just twice.

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