Jordan Pickford is undoubtedly the number one goalkeeper for England, according to former Three Lions star David Seaman.

Pickford, Aaron Ramsdale and Nick Pope are embroiled in a battle for a place between the posts for Gareth Southgate's side, with the Everton keeper the long-term favourite.

Former Sunderland man Pickford was the first-choice starter as England made the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and when the Three Lions lost on penalties in the final at Euro 2020 to Italy three years later.

Questions have persisted as to the credentials of Pickford, with suggestions his distribution is inferior to his competitors, while he has been battling Premier League relegation with Everton at club level.

Ramsdale has been fighting at the other end of the league with Arsenal, who narrowly missed out on Champions League qualification to Tottenham after a poor end to the 2021-22 campaign.

Pope is another name often floated for a place in Southgate's side, but he will be playing Championship football with Burnley next season unless he secures a move away.

Seaman, speaking to Stats Perform at a media day ahead of his participation in Sunday's Soccer Aid charity match, believes there should be no doubts over Pickford's position in the England side.

"There's a lot of competition, there's no doubt for the number one spot. Jordan's the number one, there's no doubt about that because he keeps producing for England," Seaman said. 

"There's no way or no reason for him not to be England number one. He had a great end to the season with Everton producing massive saves under massive pressure.

"The relegation battle is far worse than going for titles trust me. I've had a relegation with Birmingham City, and it was horrible. And especially with a team like Everton who were in serious trouble, that's even more pressure.

"So Jordan's proved that he can handle that. He's played in the semi-final and final. He's got great experience. He's got great ability, and while he keeps doing it, he'll stay number one, but they're really close to it. The other two."

Only five goalkeepers made more saves than Pickford's 117 in the Premier League in the 2021-22 season, but he is 15th in terms of save percentage (66.7) of goalkeepers to have played five games or more, while Ramsdale is ninth (69.8 per cent).

Pope is fourth on that list with a save percentage of 71.7, and Seaman reckons England have the best depth of choice in goal that they have had in a long time. 

"It's good at the moment. The only thing that you look at now is that obviously Nick's gone down into the Championship," he added.

"That's not a real boldness, but for Aaron, he's established himself now as Arsenal's number one and he's done that really well this season. And it's his first season and he's dealt with it fantastically.

"So he will be pushing but the future does look good. We've got quite a few goalkeepers obviously in the Championship now with Nick and Sam Johnstone, then you've got [Dean] Henderson at Man United but he's not playing.

"In the three that we've got there at the moment, there's good quality."

Luis Enrique cited the struggles of France in the Nations League as debates continue as to the strength of Spain's World Cup credentials.

Spain play their final Nations League fixture of this window on Sunday, at home to Czech Republic, having picked up just five points from three games.

A pair of draws with Portugal and Czech Republic preceded a narrow 1-0 victory over strugglers Switzerland.

Luis Enrique defended his team selection and knowledge of football after the latter win, and the Spain coach again went on the front foot when asked about what La Roja's Nations League term meant for Qatar 2022.

"It's not about what I understand or don't understand. It's about looking at things with perspective. Nobody is interested in the other results of Group A," he told reporters. 

"If someone expects us to win every game then they do not know what modern football is.

"Look at the struggles of France, champion of the world and Nations League – we are not different. But we are a great team that can beat any rival, that's for sure."

As for who is the favourite for the World Cup, Luis Enrique finds it hard to look past two South American giants.

"I see Argentina above the rest and Brazil too, well above the rest," he added.

Alvaro Morata also came in for special praise from Luis Enrique, who believes the striker is the best defensive forward on the continent.

"All wingers can play as a nine. The strikers that I have brought not all of them can play as a winger," he continued.

"Morata can. I am not going to compare players but on a defensive level, no one beats Morata in Europe. He has an intelligence when it comes to pressing and physical conditions beyond any doubt.

"Then on top of that with the ball he has been very good, he has given us superiority. We want those who participate to know that they have an offensive side and another clear defensive one.

"With us if they don't do the defensive work, we can't be compact."

Wales forward Gareth Bale will not rush into a decision on his club future, but has categorically ruled out a move to LaLiga side Getafe.

Bale will become a free agent at the end of the month when his contract with Real Madrid, where he has spent the past nine years, officially expires.

The 32-year-old has been linked with an array of clubs across Europe and in the United States, one of those being Madrid-based Getafe.

Speaking earlier this week, Getafe president Angel Torres claimed the Spanish side had been contacted by Bale's representatives regarding a possible transfer.

However, Bale denied that was the case when speaking at a news conference that was again dominated by questions regarding his next career move.

Asked if he was close to making a decision, the former Tottenham man laughed and said: "No. But I'm not going to Getafe, that's for sure.

"I just want to be playing going into the World Cup to be as fit as I can. The manager saying ideally he wants everybody to be playing, and everybody wants to be playing.

"Hopefully I can enjoy my holiday and then decide where I want to be and what I want to do to try and play games to be as fit as I can for the World Cup."

Bale won 16 trophies during his time with Madrid, but he barely played in the 2021-22 campaign, which ended with Los Blancos winning a LaLiga and Champions League double.

 

He featured in seven of Madrid's 56 matches in all competitions – 13 per cent – with just four of those being starts.

"Once I get back into playing regular football, my body will get more robust and a bit better," Bale said on Friday.

"It's very difficult when you're in and out of a team to get a rhythm in terms of your fitness and health. 

"Any player will tell you, playing week-in week-out, your body becomes more robust, you get used to it and you get fitter. I just need to play games and I'll be good to go.

"I guess whoever I go to it'll be a win-win because hopefully I'll be playing well and getting myself ready. 

"Once these internationals are over, I'll have plenty of time to go on holiday and decide my future then."

Bale inspired Wales to their first World Cup since 1958 with victory over Ukraine in last Sunday's play-off qualifying final, ending any talk of an early retirement.

That 64-year gap is the biggest between qualifications for a World Cup tournament of any nation in history, though there is uncertainty over who will be in charge of Wales in Qatar.

Rob Page has been in caretaker charge since Ryan Giggs stepped aside following his arrest on assault charges in November 2020, allegations which he denies.

Giggs' trial is due to be held in August, but Bale believes Page deserves to remain in the post.

"I think he is the long-term manager," Bale said. "I don't think there is any question in the changing room or from the fans.

"He's done an incredible job coming in in difficult circumstances. Everyone with him has a great relationship.

"We have that good mixture where we can have a bit of fun but, when we need to work, we work hard. We do it correctly. There's a great balance. He's been great for us."

Chile's appeal to have Ecuador disqualified from the World Cup in Qatar has been rejected by FIFA.

The appeal was made on the basis of Ecuador selecting an ineligible player during their qualifying campaign.

Football's world governing body opened disciplinary proceedings last month following allegations that right-back Byron Castillo is Colombian and not eligible to represent Ecuador.

Castillo made eight appearances for Ecuador in their South American qualifying campaign.

Chile, who failed to qualify for the World Cup, lodged a complaint, but FIFA confirmed on Friday that Ecuador will keep their place at the World Cup, which starts in November.

A statement on FIFA's website read: "The FIFA Disciplinary Committee has rendered its decision in relation to the potential ineligibility of the player Byron David Castillo Segura with regard to his participation in eight qualifying matches of the national team of the Ecuadorian Football Association (FEF) in the preliminary competition of the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022.

"After analysing the submissions of all parties concerned and considering all elements brought before it, the FIFA Disciplinary Committee has decided to close the proceedings initiated against the FEF.

"The Disciplinary Committee's findings were notified today to the parties concerned. In accordance with the relevant provisions of the FIFA Disciplinary Code, the parties have 10 days in which to request a motivated decision, which, if requested, would subsequently be published on legal.fifa.com. The present decision remains subject to an appeal before the FIFA Appeal Committee."

La Roja, who finished seventh to miss out on a play-off spot, would have taken Ecuador's place had FIFA disqualified them. 

Ecuador will face hosts Qatar, Netherlands and Senegal in Group A.

The trial of former FIFA president Sepp Blatter and ex-UEFA president Michel Platini has been delayed by a day after the former said he was too ill to testify.

Blatter and Platini were set to begin their court appearance at the Federal Criminal Court in Bellinzona on Wednesday, with both men facing fraud charges.

Judges however have allowed a one-day postponement after Blatter reported he was suffering from chest pains.

The duo were banned from football in 2015 over corruption claims and were indicted in November last year by Swiss prosecutors.

It is claimed that a payment of 2 million Swiss francs (£1.6m) made by Blatter to Platini in 2011 was unlawful.

Both men deny wrongdoing.

Ajdin Hrustic's late deflected strike sealed a 2-1 victory over the United Arab Emirates that put Australia one win away from the World Cup.

The Socceroos could not muster a shot on target in the first half of a do-or-die play-off at the Ahmad Bin Ali Stadium and they were indebted to Mat Ryan for twice denying Harib Abdalla Suhail at his near post.

Australia got into their stride after break and were in front when Jackson Irvine turned in Martin Boyle's cross from close range with 53 minutes gone.

The UAE were level four minutes later when Caio Canedo fired into the roof of the net from six yards out with his left foot after Suhail's cross caused panic in the Socceroos defence.

Craig Goodwin missed a great chance to put Graham Arnold's side back in front, but the decisive moment came six minutes from time as Hrustic let fly with a powerful left-foot strike that hit Ali Salmeen and gave goalkeeper Khalid Eisa no chance.

Australia will face Peru in an intercontinental play-off at the same venue next Monday, with the winner sealing their place in the showpiece in Qatar. The UAE's wait for a first World Cup appearance since 1990 goes on.

Canada players have ended their strike to continue preparations for the 2022 World Cup but warned "questions have yet to be answered and actions have yet to be taken".

The team, who qualified for the World Cup finals for the first time since 1986, had taken action in a dispute over Qatar 2022 prize money.

As a friendly against Panama had to be called off, Canada Soccer responded to reports players would receive only 10 per cent of the pot it received from FIFA.

Canada Soccer said it had proposed 30 per cent would go to the men's team, 30 per cent to the women's team and 40 per cent to the association.

The players, the association claimed, asked for somewhere between 75 and 100 per cent of the money. A letter from the players asked for 40 per cent.

This letter said negotiations over compensation had been "unnecessarily prolonged" by executives "taking vacations" before players were presented with "an archaic offer" last week.

The team apologised to Panama as they went on a short-lived strike, which was ended by their return to training this week – albeit without a resolution.

 

"We, the Canadian men's national team, have decided to resume training in preparation for the road to Qatar," they said in a second letter.

"To be clear, we have not reached an agreement with [Canada Soccer].

"The players have met with the senior leaders of Canada Soccer on Sunday evening and will continue the negotiation process, but questions have yet to be answered and actions have yet to be taken.

"We move forward in hope that Canada Soccer will work with us to resolve the situation."

Canada Soccer added: "Canada Soccer senior leaders and the men's national team players met on Sunday night to continue the negotiation process.

"The players will train this [Monday] afternoon with future meetings scheduled toward a resolution."

Canada begin their World Cup campaign against 2018 semi-finalists Belgium in Al Rayyan on November 23 and will also play Croatia and Morocco in Group F.

Rob Page believes Wales can go "toe-to-toe with anybody" at the World Cup later this year after they secured qualification on Sunday.

Andriy Yarmolenko's own goal ensured a 1-0 win for Wales in Cardiff as Page's men booked their spot at Qatar 2022 via the European playoff.

It meant Wales qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1958 and will face England, the United States and Iran in Group B.

Page believes his side can head into the tournament with belief they can do more than just make up the numbers, having advanced from the group stage in both of the last two European Championships.

"We go with the confidence we have had going into any game," Page said, speaking to Radio Wales Breakfast.

"We have played against the USA. We know they are a really strong outfit.

"We played against their European-based players in my first game [0-0 in November 2020].

"[USA and Iran] are winnable games, and when you play against a home nations team, anything can happen.

"We will go toe to toe with anybody, bring it on. That's the attitude we have got in that changing room."

 

On the victory against Ukraine, Page added: "It's one of those surreal moments where you wake up and realise we are off to the World Cup. It is unbelievable.

"Even at the final whistle last night, I was thinking 'is this a cruel dream that I am having?' But then when you realise it's reality, coming back to the hotel and celebrating with the players last night, then waking up this morning and having that realisation again that we have done it.

"It's such a proud moment for the nation."

Wales have lost just once in their last 11 matches, a 2-1 defeat to Poland in the Nations League, and are currently ranked 18th in the FIFA world rankings, three places above Iran (21st), three places below the USA (15th) and 13 places below England (5th).

"It's a special moment for me personally and for my family," Page added.

"My mum and dad still live in the Rhondda. We are all going to enjoy it - we are supporters ourselves."

Gareth Bale described Wales' World Cup qualifying play-off final win over Ukraine as the "greatest result" in the national team's history.

Andriy Yarmolenko's own goal ensured a 1-0 triumph for Wales, who were largely indebted to the heroics of Wayne Hennessey as Rob Page's team held on to book their spot at Qatar 2022.

It meant Wales qualified for the World Cup for the first time since 1958 and Bale, who will leave Real Madrid when his contract expires at the end of the month, was in no doubt about the significance of the result.

"It's the greatest result in history for Welsh football," Bale told Sky Sports. "We are all ecstatic. The fans together, it was a delight, and we are going to a World Cup!

"It means everything. It's what dreams are made of. It's what we've been working for since we first came here. I'm so happy for all our amazing fans and our country. Words can't describe how we're feeling at the moment.

"It was difficult. I haven't done too much over the last four weeks because of my back spasm, which everyone knows about.

"Contributing in whatever way I could, but the most important thing was to get through it and get through to the World Cup.

"I gave my all on the pitch and I was running a bit on empty, it's always good to have players come off the bench and do a job."

 

Wales' victory means they will face England, the United States and Iran in Group B in Qatar.

And interim manager Page dedicated the Red Dragons' success to former boss Gary Speed, who died in 2011.

"I've said in the build-up, Gary Speed started this 12 or 13 years ago," he told a media conference. "I want to dedicate this to Gary. He started the culture, 12 years ago.

"There was a difference, there was a change. The environment completely changed. I've inherited that, Chris Coleman took it on and took it to another level, and I've inherited that group.

"We're confident going into games now. We don't hope to qualify for the World Cup or Euros now, we believe we can do it, so there's been a massive change in the mentality as well.

"I had a difficult decision tonight. I've got people like Harry Wilson and Brennan Johnson, who is going to be a superstar, isn't he? You've got people like him who didn't start tonight. But we had our best 11 on the pitch.

"It's encouraging, it's good, we're going in the right direction. We need to continue to develop these young players that we have done for the last few years, and it's only going to get better for us."

Wales will appear at the World Cup for the first time in 64 years after Andriy Yarmolenko's own goal ensured a 1-0 qualifying play-off final win over Ukraine.

Ukraine marked their first competitive match back after Russia's invasion with a 3-1 play-off semi-final win over Scotland on Wednesday to tee up the winner-takes-all decider in Cardiff.

Oleksandr Petrakov's visitors controlled first-half proceedings but were made to pay when Gareth Bale, with the help of Yarmolenko's head, struck first after 34 minutes.

Wales were largely indebted to the heroics of Wayne Hennessey as Rob Page's team held on to book their spot in Qatar alongside England, United States and Iran in World Cup Group B.

A long-range Viktor Tsygankov drive forced an early save from Hennessey, who tipped over a deflected cross from the Ukraine winger from the resulting corner.

Oleksandr Petrakov's visitors, buoyed on by a vociferous away crowd, continued with their dominance as another smart Hennessey stop denied Roman Yaremchuk as he threatened with a drilled effort.

Hennessey kept out Oleksandr Zinchenko's curler and the Wales goalkeeper's plethora of first-half saves paid dividends, with Yarmolenko heading Bale's goal-bound free-kick past Georgi Bushchan.

Aaron Ramsey angled a glorious chance from Kieffer Moore's cutback wide, while Hennessey kicked away Tsygankov's close-range prod in an entertaining second-half opening.

Ruslan Malinovskiy fired a deflected strike wide as Ukraine searched for an equaliser, with Brennan Johnson hitting the post and Bushchan denying Bale at the other end during a frenetic finish.

Hennessey was again the hero as he produced a fantastic stop against Artem Dovbyk in the closing stages to send Wales to the World Cup.

Sadio Mane has become Senegal's record goalscorer after his hat-trick secured a 3-1 win over over Benin in their Africa Cup of Nations qualifier on Saturday.

The Liverpool forward scored twice from the penalty spot and netted another in Dakar to move onto 32 goals in 90 games for his country.

Mane's treble moved him beyond Henri Camara's tally of 31 for the champions of Africa.

The 30-year-old's record-breaking achievement comes amid intense speculation over his future following another outstanding season for Jurgen Klopp's side.

On Friday, the attacker quipped that he would do what the people of his Senegal want him to do, amid reports he could be on his way to Bayern Munich.

Conor Coady says it was "a massive disappointment" to be booed for taking the knee ahead of England's Nations League loss to Hungary.

The Three Lions were jeered by a crowd mostly composed of young fans in Budapest after they made the gesture just before kick-off at Puskas Arena.

Dominik Szoboszlai's second-half penalty was the only goal of the game as Gareth Southgate's side laboured to a first defeat against their hosts for 60 years.

Saturday's match was originally scheduled to be played behind closed doors following racial abuse aimed towards England players on their last visit in September.

Speaking afterwards, Coady admitted such antagonism saddened him and his team-mates, but they remain undeterred in their commitment to the gesture.

"It's a massive disappointment," he told Channel 4. "It's important people understand why we are trying to do.

"It's not something you want to hear, but we want to keep pushing the message from our point of view."

Elsewhere, Coady acknowledged England must take the lessons of their defeat and turn them around ahead of further Nations League tests and the Qatar 2022 World Cup looming.

"We need to learn very quickly," he added. "We wanted to come here and win, started off quite well and they grew into the game. It's important we bounce back.

"We need to look at ourselves because these are big games. We are always looking to improve."

England now travel to Munich to face Germany next Tuesday before returning to Coady's home ground of Molineux to take on Italy and Hungary once more.

Gareth Bale says his future in football is not dependent on the result of Wales' World Cup play-off final against Ukraine on Sunday.

Bale, who was the world's most expensive player when he joined Real Madrid from Tottenham in 2013, has confirmed he will leave the European champions when his contract expires at the end of this month.

The 32-year-old has been linked with a return to Spurs, where he spent the 2020-21 campaign on loan, as well as hometown club Cardiff City, while it has also been suggested he could retire if Wales fail to qualify for Qatar 2022.

Bale, though, insisted the result of Sunday's clash at the Cardiff City Stadium will have no bearing on his decision over what to do next season.

Asked if his future hinges on the vital clash, Bale said: "Not necessarily, no. Like I've said before, I'm not concentrating on what lies ahead in the future.

"We have a massive game that all my focus is on. I really don't need to think or worry about anything else. I have no other worries."

Asked if he has offers on the table for next term already, Bale responded: "I've got loads!"

Restricted to just seven appearances in all competitions for Madrid this season, Bale also missed Wales' Nations League clash against Poland on Wednesday.

However, the talismanic forward, who carried out Saturday's media conference at Wales' training ground rather than at the stadium, said he is fit and ready for the match against Ukraine.

"After training I have my routines," he explained "When we have the press conference at the Vale, it's convenient. I can do my stuff and get ready for the game.

"Having to take two hours out of my day to get to the stadium didn't quite work. So we did it this way. Apologies but unfortunately the game comes first!"

Bale also said he would not apologise to Ukraine should Wales edge past them to qualify for their first World Cup since 1958.

Millions of Ukrainians have been displaced and thousands left defending their homeland after Russia invaded the country in March.

Asked if he would apologise, Bale said: "As horrible as it sounds, no. As it is a game of football and it is a competition that we want to get to as well.

"Everyone in the world feels for Ukraine. It is sport that unites everybody. We understand what it will do for Ukraine, but we want to get to the World Cup.

"That is not coming from a horrible place. It is coming from our country and hearts as we want to deliver for our own fans."

Italy will become the laughing stock of international football if they continue to hypothesise routes into the World Cup, federation president Gabriele Gravina said on Saturday.

The Azzurri failed to qualify for Qatar 2022 after losing to North Macedonia in a play-off semi-final in March, a stunning result that has caused much upset.

Former Juventus star Roberto Baggio said this week it was "shameful" that Italy were not automatically allocated a World Cup place on the basis of their Euro 2020 triumph.

There has been speculation Italy could get in through the back door if Ecuador are thrown out, after FIFA opened disciplinary proceedings into allegations the South American team fielded an ineligible player in their successful qualifying campaign.

According to Gravina, head of the FIGC, now is the time for Italy to accept their fate, however painful it might be.

"A few weeks ago we launched a new way of working," Gravina told Italy's Sky Sport. "We said that we must work trying to be, all together, focused on regaining credibility.

"We know very well that it is not easy, and we know that there are critical issues, but credibility is linked to a very delicate phase, that is to eliminate everything that makes us not very credible.

"Allow me also to clarify the issue of World Cup repechage, which is making us not very credible. Football has winners and losers. Italy was eliminated and did not qualify, Italy does not participate in the World Cup.

"If we have to work because we believe that the rules must be changed, we will do it later. Today, Italy's out of the World Cup.

"Let's take it for granted because otherwise we continue to say things that honestly put everyone, even internationally, in a position to make fun of us."

Speaking on Friday, Italy head coach Roberto Mancini spoke of his desire for new beginnings with Italy, whose European Championship success at last year's delayed tournament has been dampened by the failure to reach two consecutive World Cups.

"The victory of the European Championship is part of the magic that are part of those tournaments. Now we have to start again and go back to that magic," said Mancini, whose team were due in action against Germany in a Nations League game on Saturday.

"I have never had this type of problem. In football, however, when you win everyone is with you and when you lose almost everyone against you. That's how it is. The restart is from now."

For Wales, the wait is nearly over.

After a delay of more than two months owing to the horrific events that have unfolded in Ukraine, Wales finally get a shot at ending their long wait for a place at the World Cup.

With their opponents now known following Ukraine's impressive victory against Scotland in midweek, the Dragons' date with destiny finally arrives in Cardiff this Sunday.

And after a wait of some six-and-a-half decades since last appearing at the biggest football tournament of them all, the excitement could not be any higher.

If Wales are to jump the final hurdle and make it to Qatar 2022, though, they must do something no side has achieved since Croatia in October 2017 – beat Ukraine in a qualifier.

Ukraine have proved their resolve in more ways than one and now, spurred on by most of the world, Oleksandr Petrakov's battlers are potentially 90 minutes from the World Cup.

Stats Perform looks at how both sides shape up ahead of the showdown at Cardiff City Stadium.


QUALIFYING RECORDS

While Wales have enjoyed runs to the semi-finals and last 16 of the past two European Championships, not since 1958 have they competed on the grandest stage of them all.

Should they reach Qatar 2022, that gap of 64 years would surpass the record jointly held by Egypt and Norway of 56 years between tournament participations.

To put into context just how long ago Wales' only previous World Cup outing was, Brazil great Pele scored the only goal against them in that year's quarter-final.

At 17 years and 239 days, he still holds the record of being the tournament's youngest-ever goalscorer.

 

Ukraine have themselves competed at the World Cup just once, albeit having only had six previous attempts at qualifying as an independent nation.

The Eastern European country reached the quarter-finals in Germany 16 years ago, where they were beaten 3-0 by eventual winners Italy.

Like opponents Wales, they have twice qualified for the European Championship, as well as being given direct entry to the tournament as joint-hosts with Poland in 2012.

 

PREVIOUS MEETINGS

The two teams' pedigree is pretty similar, then, as is their record against one another down the years.

Only three times have they previously met, with two of those finishing all square in World Cup 2002 qualifying, and Ukraine winning the other 1-0 in a pre-Euro 2016 friendly.

Incidentally, current Wales boss Rob Page played the full 90 minutes in Ukraine's only previous outing on Welsh soil, with that contest ending in a 1-1 draw 20 years ago.

 

PLAY-OFF PEDRIGREE

Wales' record when it comes down to crunch fixtures down the years has been pretty impressive, having won all three of their previous World Cup qualifying play-off games.

The Dragons beat Israel over both legs in qualifying for the 1958 edition and saw off Austria 2-1 in March to set up their clash with Ukraine, who beat Scotland in the other semi.

History is not exactly on Ukraine's side in that regard, though, as they have failed to reach the tournament in each of their previous four play-offs – in 1997, 2001, 2009 and 2013.

 

If it is to be fourth time lucky, the Blue and Yellow will have to breach Wales' Cardiff City Stadium fortress, where Page's side are unbeaten in 17 matches since November 2018.

But Ukraine certainly know how to grind out results on their travels, having won each of their past three away competitive matches, including that 3-1 win in Glasgow this week.

In fact, Petrakov's side have gone unbeaten home and away throughout Qatar qualifying, as was the case en route to reaching Euro 2020.

That run of 18 games without losing in qualifying is a record only Belgium can match among European nations.

 

KEY MEN

When it comes down to the individual battles, at full strength there is very little between two nations separated by just nine places in the latest FIFA rankings.

For Wales, Bale undoubtedly remains the focal point of the side in what could reportedly be his final ever game in professional football should his side taste defeat.

The free agent has only played six games in qualifying, totalling 488 minutes, yet only five European players have been involved in more than his eight goals.

With those five goals and three assists, Bale is averaging a goal or assist every 61 minutes for his country on the road to Qatar.

 

There is not one standout star in the Ukrainian ranks, as such, but plenty of focus will be on Roman Yaremchuk, who was on the scoresheet at Hampden Park.

The Benfica attacker is Ukraine's top scorer this qualifying campaign with four goals, the past three of those coming in away matches.

This run to the qualifying play-off final has very much been built on unity, though, which will again be on show in the Welsh capital on Sunday.

Yet whether it is the chance to put history right, make a nation of people proud or anything in between, the end goal for Wales and Ukraine is ultimately the same.

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