Wales are heading to the Euro 2024 play-offs after drawing 1-1 with Turkey on a dramatic night in Cardiff.
Neco Williams’ seventh-minute goal – his third for Wales – offered hope they could bridge the two-point gap between them and Croatia for the second automatic qualifying spot.
But Yusuf Yazici’s controversial penalty 20 minutes from time – awarded after Wales had three stronger spot-kick appeals rejected – handed Turkey a share of the spoils and the point required to top Group D.
In the end, Yazici’s leveller did not matter in denying Wales qualification as Croatia kept their side of the bargain by beating Armenia 1-0 at home.
Wales go into the March play-offs where a home semi-final against Finland, Iceland and Ukraine awaits.
Thursday’s draw will determine who Wales will play, with Poland and Estonia contesting the other semi-final.
Wales had lost control of their destiny by drawing in Armenia on Saturday, with a performance that was as poor as the result.
Ein Wal Goch ♥️
We pick ourselves up. We dig deeper. We go again.
— Wales 🏴 (@Cymru) November 21, 2023
Boss Rob Page reacted to that disappointment by making three changes, one of which was enforced with Chris Mepham suspended and Luton defender Tom Lockyer making his first competitive appearance for Wales since September 2021.
Brennan Johnson and Nathan Broadhead were also introduced on the back of Wales’ makeweight attack in Yerevan.
Turkey skipper Hakan Calhanoglu, the Inter Milan midfielder, was absent through illness but Vincenzo Montella had started his managerial reign with three victories – including taking the scalps of Croatia and Germany – and their travelling support was as noisy as ever.
Wales showed an intensity that was missing in Yerevan as Broadhead seized on a mistake and curled wide of the far post.
But Wales did not have to wait long for the breakthrough as Harry Wilson found Williams in space on the left.
Williams cut inside on his favoured right foot and with perfect placement found the corner of Ugurcan Cakir’s net from 16 yards.
Turkey were visibly rattled, losing Lockyer at a corner and letting discipline slip with some unnecessary shoving as tempers threatened to boil over.
Wales had no fewer than three penalty appeals in a frantic nine-minute spell.
Wilson went down in a tangle of legs with with Abdulkerim Bardakci and Johnson was floored by a sliding Samet Akaydin tackle when the defender did not make contact with the ball.
Akaydin then flattened Johnson from behind in a crowded goalmouth, the challenge somehow escaping the notice of Slovenian referee Matej Jug and VAR.
Turkey sent on Manchester United goalkeeper Altay Bayindir for the injured Cakir and fashioned their first opening three minutes before the interval when Kerem Akturkoglu fired over.
Bayindir was forced into action from Johnson, who was proving far more lively than his limp second-half showing in Armenia.
Johnson brought another full-stretch stop from Bayindir after the break, but Turkey should have been level after 58 minutes.
Akaydin met an Akturkoglu corner from six yards but planted his header straight at Danny Ward in the Wales goal.
Ethan Ampadu saw his header held by Bayindir before Turkey equalised in contentious circumstances.
Ben Davies was adjudged to have fouled Kenan Yildiz, an incredibly soft decision that was capitalised on by Yazici in nonchalant fashion. It was Turkey’s first goal in four visits to Wales.
Yusuf Sari skimmed the Wales crossbar and Johnson had the ball in the net from an offside position.
There were heated scenes at the final whistle and a rash of yellow cards.
Wales had extended their unbeaten run to six games, but that will be of scant consolation as the disappointment of missing out on automatic qualification sinks in.