12 Oct 2015

Wales lose but make Euro finals

11:27 am on 12 October 2015

Welsh football's celebrating reaching their first major tournament for 57 years after sealing a place in next year's European Championship finals in France.

That came despite a 2-0 loss in Bosnia in their penultimate qualifier. Wales qualified because Israel lost 2-1 at home to Cyprus.

Wales skipper Gareth Bale

Wales skipper Gareth Bale Photo: Photosport

While Belgium's players were also elated after reaching the finals with a 4-1 win in Andorra and the Italians were beaming as they made sure of their spot with a 3-1 win in Azerbaijan, that was nothing compared to the Welsh celebrations in Zenica.

Despite losing on the night, the Wales players dived in unison, cheered, hugged and jumped for joy with the several hundred travelling fans, all of them forgetting decades of failure after a long sought-after success.

Wales' only other appearance at a major finals was in the 1958 World Cup in Sweden and their setback in Bosnia was best summed up by Wales skipper Gareth Bale.

"It's the best defeat of my life!" the world's most expensive player said, after learning they were through.

"It was a difficult game but we have done it and everyone is very happy," added the Real Madrid forward.

"This is right up there in my career. It was a dream from when I was a small child to play in a major tournament. It doesn't stop here, we have business to do in France."

Bosnia substitute Milan Djuric scored the first and set up the second for striker Vedad Ibisevic as they maintained their chance of a playoff place.

As well as Belgium and Wales, Italy also qualified.

Italy went through after their 3-1 win in a Group H match in Azerbaijan

That takes the number of countries that have now booked their places alongside hosts France to 11, with the Czech Republic, England, Portugal, Switzerland, Northern Ireland, Austria and Spain also all through.

The remaining automatic qualifiers and playoff spots will be settled from Monday to Wednesday when the final games are played.

Following Sunday's matches, the Netherlands, Turkey, Bosnia, Israel, Cyprus, Norway and Croatia are either in contention for second place or a playoff berth.

The Dutch, who have not missed a Euro finals since 1984, kept their playoff chances alive with a 2-1 win in Kazakhstan.

The fate of the 1988 European champions will be decided on Tuesday when they host the already-qualified Czechs and Turkey, also vying for third place, welcome group leaders Iceland who have already sealed their spot.

Turkey won 2-0 away to the Czech Republic to reach 15 points while the Dutch have 13 and must win their last match to have any hope of a playoff spot.

The tussle for who qualifies with Italy from Group H is going to the wire after Norway defeated Malta 2-0 and Croatia beat Bulgaria 3-0.

Italy are secure with 21 points, Norway have 19 and Croatia 17. Norway play in Italy on Tuesday while Croatia travel to Malta.

In the battle for third spot in Group B, Bosnia visit Cyprus and Israel travel to Belgium.

- Reuters