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Wales condemned to play-offs as Croatia nab Euro 2024 place
Wales missed out on automatic qualification for Euro 2024 after Tuesday's 1-1 draw with Turkey, combined with Croatia's 1-0 win against Armenia, condemned them to the play-offs.
Rob Page's side needed to beat Turkey along with Croatia dropping points at home to Armenia if they were to reach next year's tournament via a top-two finish in Group D.
Neco Williams gave Wales an early lead but Yusuf Yazici's second half penalty denied the hosts to the frustration of a capacity crowd at the Cardiff City Stadium.
Wales' result was rendered irrelevant by Ante Budimir's first half goal for Croatia, which sealed their tense victory over Armenia.
Turkey, who were already assured of qualification, finished top of Group D, with Croatia in second place and Wales four points behind them in third.
Wales have to regroup from that blow in time to face Finland, Ukraine or Iceland in the play-off semi-finals in Cardiff on March 21.
A UEFA draw on Thursday will decide which of the three nations Wales will face.
If they win the semi-final, Page's men would need to beat Poland or Estonia in the play-off final on March 26 to reach the Euros in Germany.
The play-off format should hold no fears for Wales after they qualified for the 2022 World Cup by beating Austria and Ukraine.
Wales' bid to reach a fourth major tournament in their last five attempts had been seriously wounded by a dismal 1-1 draw with Armenia on Saturday.
Looking for a miracle in their final group match, Wales took the lead in the seventh minute when Williams collected Jordan James' pass and drilled a fine finish past Ugurcan Cakir.
Tom Lockyer headed a corner across the face of goal and James blasted narrowly over from distance as Wales pushed to double their lead.
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Brennan Johnson appealed in vain for a penalty after a clumsy challenge from Turkey's Samet Akaydin went unpunished.
Kerem Akturkoglu should have equalised in a rare Turkey attack, but the winger fired wastefully over from inside the Wales area.
Johnson's shot on the turn drew a good save from Altay Bayindir, who had replaced the injured Cakir.
But just before half-time, news of Budimir's opener for Croatia filtered through from Zagreb.
Despite that blow, Wales kept pressing after half-time and Johnson's low strike was repelled by Bayindir, who saved from Ethan Ampadu's header moments later.
Well below their best for long periods, Turkey drew level against the run of play in the 70th minute.
It was harsh on Wales as Ben Davies was ruled to have fouled Kenan Yildiz with only minimal contact.
Yazici stroked home the penalty to consign Wales to the lottery of the play-offs.