Monday, December 5, 2022

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World Cup dream over for Wales, Switzerland wins play-off

Wales suffered a heartbreak in the World Cup play-offs when Switzerland ended their finals dream with a last-minute 2-1 win in Zurich in extra time.

Rhiannon Roberts put underdogs Wales ahead in the 19th minute before Ramona Bachmann, the best player on the pitch, equalized just before half-time.

Wales were on penalties just seconds from level, but tiring legs couldn’t stop Geraldine Reuteler’s cross in the 120th minute and Fabienne Humm’s clever finish at the near post.

It was a brave performance from Wales, who are nine places behind 21st-place Switzerland and have pushed their luck at times against glittering hosts.

Ana-Maria Crnogorcevic missed a penalty chance in the second half and Bachmann had to rule out another try as Wales survived until the closing stages.

Wales manager Gemma Grainger named the same team that beat Bosnia and Herzegovina 1-0 in Thursday’s play-off semi-final.

Jess Fishlock had settled that tie in Cardiff with a superb extra-time volley and the veteran midfielder won her 136th cap in a side led by Chelsea’s Sophie Ingle.

Switzerland dominated possession but Wales were content to defend with a low block and deny them space in the last third.

Viola Calligaris shot through a crowd of players from 20 yards and hit the outside of a post, beating Welsh goalkeeper Laura O’Sullivan.

But Wales stunned the Zurich crowd after 19 minutes when Switzerland’s fallibility at set pieces was revealed.

Kayleigh Green got a precious touch from a corner and Roberts was on hand to crush her second international goal home from two yards.

Switzerland hadn’t scored a single shot on goal by the end of the first period, but that was to end in dramatic fashion when Wales were sliced ​​open.

Arsenal duo Lia Walti and Noelle Maritz combined brilliantly to find Bachmann, who swept past O’Sullivan for her 57th international goal.

Switzerland were clearly boosted by the equalizer and Svenja Folmli and Crnogorcevic both took a narrow lead right after the break.

VAR then intervened and referee Tess Olofsson found Rachel Rowe guilty of handling Crnogorcevic’s header despite being in close proximity to the Swiss striker and her arm appearing to be in a natural position.

Crnogorcevic put the penalty on the post and converted the rebound after the ball came right back to her.

But with no Welsh player intervening, the goal was correctly disallowed.

Switzerland’s control was almost complete throughout the second period as Wales rarely broke out of their half.

There was almost a goofball as Ceri Holland and Fishlock Green set up for a shot that was diverted to the roof of the Swiss net.

It looked as if Switzerland’s pressure would have shown it as Bachmann rolled Hayley Ladd six minutes from the end and kept finishing great, but VAR had seen an offside in the build-up and Wales were granted a lifeline.

Bachmann, Crnogorcevic and Rachel Rinast were all unable to convert in extra time and Rowe’s finish on the goal-line almost secured the penalty until substitute Humm intervened dramatically.

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