Cymru 0-0 Poland (4-5p): Dan James misses penalty as Poland progress to EURO2024

The EURO2024 dream is dead for Cymru, after Rob Page’s side fell to defeat against Poland at Cardiff City Stadium on Tuesday. Michal Probierz’s Poland were unchanged from last week’s 5-1 demolition of Estonia in Warsaw.

Tuesday’s visitors needed a penalty shootout to seal their progression to this summer’s tournament, after coming close to falling behind in the first half when Cymru saw Ben Davies’ headed attempt disallowed for an offside against Kieffer Moore.

Poland were flawless from twelve yards out, with Dan James missing Cymru’s last effort from the spot to bring a heartbreaking end to Y Dreigiau’s hopes of tournament football this summer.

As it happened

Cymru roared into life after just a matter of minutes against Finland last Thursday, but proceedings took place at a much slower tempo on Tuesday, with Poland forcing the first chance of note as the quarter-hour mark approached. Przemyslaw Frankowski’s delivery from the right looked to present a promising opportunity for Karol Swiderski – only for the forward to flash his effort wide of the far post.

But Rob Page’s side fought back, producing the better chances from that point on. Ben Davies and Kieffer Moore both skewed headed attempts off-target following threatening corner deliveries, but it looked to those inside the Cardiff City Stadium that Y Dreigiau had found the opener just before the break as Ben Davies nodded past Wojciech Szczesny.

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Their celebrations were painfully shortlived though. Neco Williams’ cross had been flicked towards Davies by an offside Moore, and the goal was correctly disallowed for a fractional offside against the Ipswich Town forward – meaning there was nothing to separate the two sides at half-time.

Cymru emerged from the break with a renewed impetus in front of goal, perhaps fuelled by a sense of aggrievement at their earlier disallowed goal. Moore continued to be an aerial threat inside the box, forcing Szczesny into a world-class save just five minutes into the second half following a Williams free-kick.

Szczesny would prove to be Moore’s worst enemy as the atmosphere continued to build inside the Cardiff City Stadium. The Polish shotstopper claimed another fierce header from the Ipswich Town talisman with twenty minutes remaining – just before the game descended into bedlam as referee Daniele Orsato appeared to momentarily lose control of proceedings.

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The introduction of Daniel James and David Brooks looked to galvanise the Welsh attack, but the duo were not able to force a goal before Daniele Orsato’s whistle signalled the end of regulation time – and the commencement of a further thirty minutes.

Tuesday’s visitors were the brighter side throughout the first period of extra time in Cardiff, with Jakub Piotrowski unlucky to watch his effort from the edge of the box curl just wide of the upright following a blistering counterattack. It would only serve to worsen the pain when Moore failed to take advantage of a loose ball from the Polish defence, progressing into the box before seeing his shot blocked.

Brooks’ involvement would last less than thirty minutes though, with the Bournemouth forward replaced by Nathan Broadhead as the threat of a penalty shootout grew. Y Dreigiau had failed to impress since play resumed for the final fifteen minutes, with Poland forcing the best chance as Szymanski nodded just wide from close range.

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With Cymru just seconds away from a penalty shootout, Rob Page’s men were reduced to ten as Chris Mepham saw red for a second bookable offence.

Robert Lewandowski stepped up first from twelve yards, kickstarting a shootout saw each side net their first four penalties. A fine effort from Krzysztof Piatek piled the fate of a nation onto the shoulders of the young Dan James, with the Leeds United forward seeing his effort saved by Wojciech Szczesny as Cymru’s EURO2024 dreams lie in tatters.

Poland will open their EURO2024 campaign in Hamburg on 16 June, as they face the Netherlands. They’ll face Austria in Berlin five days later, before Group D proceedings conclude with a highly-anticipated match against France in Dortmund on 25 June.

The lineups

CYM: Ward; Rodon, Davies, Mepham, Williams; J James, Wilson, Ampadu, Roberts; Moore, Johnson

POL: Szczesny; Kiwior, Dawidowicz, Bednarek; Zalewski, Piotrowski, Zielinski, Slisz; Frankowski; Lewandowski, Swiderski