World Cup

World Cup playoffs: Wales go through, Italy knocked out

Jude Summerfield
Bale starred for Wales
Bale starred for Wales / Athena Pictures/GettyImages

For anyone missing the drama of domestic football already, Thursday night served up some excellent entertainment that even the most ardent of international football haters would have enjoyed.

There was drama all over the place, and even in the games that were a little dry, there were still moments of absolute chaos.

Here's your roundup for the World Cup playoff games that took place on Thursday night.

Wales 2-1 Austria

Cometh the hour, cometh the man.

Madrid might be a city busy blaming Gareth Bale for anything and everything that goes wrong at Real, but when Wales are in action, he shows up.

The former Tottenham forward scored one of his greatest ever free kicks against Austria, whipping the ball up and over the wall and into the top corner to send the Cardiff City Stadium into raptures.

The Wales icon came up with another scorcher at the start of the second half, finding room in the box and smacking his effort beyond Heinz Lindner.

However, the crowd was brought swiftly back down to earth when a Marcelo Sabitzer strike found its way beyond Wayne Hennessey via a Ben Davies deflection.

Despite a nervy final half hour, Wales held on to book their spot in the playoff final which will be contested against either Ukraine or Scotland in June.

Sweden 1-0 Czech Republic (AET)

Robin Quaison
Sweden got past the Czech Republic in extra time / David Lidstrom/GettyImages

Outside the two countries, this was probably the least watched game of the four - and for good reason. The two teams struggled to break each other down and needed to go to extra-time after a goalless 90 minutes.

The breakthrough eventually came in the 110th minute as Robin Quaison played a one-two with Alexander Isak and slotted beyond Tomas Vaclik.

A tie with Robert Lewandowski's Poland - who were given a bye past Russia - awaits the Swedes.

Italy 0-1 North Macedonia

North Macedonia caused a massive upset / ALBERTO PIZZOLI/GettyImages

Italy again failed to qualify for the World Cup as North Macedonia produced one of the great smash-and-grab performances to steal a 1-0 victory in Palermo.

Roberto Mancini's Euro 2020 winners dominated possession but struggled to break down their opposition, who consistently blocked and repelled everything that was thrown at them.

Then, in injury time, the visitors took a shock lead. Aleksandar Trajkovski capitalised on some indecisive Italian defending to get a show away which crept past Gianluigi Donnarumma and into the bottom corner.

It's the second successive World Cup Italy have not qualified for, having last featured at the tournament in 2014.

Portugal 3-1 Turkey

Matheus Luiz
Portugal got the job done eventually / Octavio Passos/GettyImages

Portugal wasted little time getting ahead in their clash as Otavio tucked in on the rebound after Bernardo Silva had hit the post.

They stretched their lead to 2-0 just before half-time when Diogo Jota powered in a header at the back stick from Otavio's floated cross.

Turkey, tipped as dark horses at Euro 2020 before a disastrous campaign, got back into the contest with a very nicely worked goal finished off by Burak Yilmaz.

They were then gifted a priceless opportunity to draw level when Jose Fonte gave away a penalty, but Yilmaz could only clip the bar from 12 yards.

The victory was eventually sealed for Portugal when substitute Matheus Nunes tucked home from Rafael Leao's pass.