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Talking Tactics: Where Wales vs Ukraine will be won and lost
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Sean Wilson
LiveScore
Gareth Bale could decide the World Cup qualifying play-off final in Wales' favour
Gareth Bale could decide the World Cup qualifying play-off final in Wales' favour

With World Cup qualification on the line, the stakes could not be higher for Wales and Ukraine this evening. 

The Dragons defeated Austria 2-1 to book their spot in this winner-takes-all contest, while Ukraine will be looking to claim another British scalp en route to Qatar after beating Scotland 3-1 on Wednesday. 

Ahead of the crunch clash in Cardiff, we take a look at where the match could be won and lost.

Star man Bale

When Wales need a moment of magic or inspiration, they look to Gareth Bale. 

The nation's all-time top scorer with 38 goals, he netted a stunning free-kick as his brace saw the Dragons past Austria.

Bale, 32, topped both the goalscoring and assist charts for Wales in World Cup qualifying, netting five and setting up three in just six Group E appearances. 

Despite being allowed to leave Real Madrid upon the expiry of his contract, the former Tottenham man is undoubtedly Wales' superstar and will need to be at his best if they are to reach a first World Cup since 1958. 

Recent reports claim he could even sign with boyhood club Cardiff if the Dragons make it to Qatar this winter.

Gareth Bale has scored five goals in World Cup qualifying for Wales
Gareth Bale has scored five goals in World Cup qualifying for Wales

Goal hero

While Bale is the main man for Wales, Ukraine have a star of their own to rely on in Andriy Yarmolenko.

He will also be looking for a new club come the end of the month when his deal with West Ham expires. 

Yarmolenko, 32, endured a stop-start season but still managed three goals for the Hammers in fewer than 700 minutes of Premier League and Europa League football. 

The winger's 45-goal international tally is just three behind Ukraine's all-time top scorer and former coach Andriy Shevchenko (48). 

And he will hope to close the gap between himself and his legendary countryman tonight.

Andriy Yarmolenko starts in wide areas before drifting into dangerous central positions
Andriy Yarmolenko starts in wide areas before drifting into dangerous central positions

Business as usual

Wales manager Rob Page insists he is not planning to do anything differently for this game. 

In the build-up to the fixture, he said: "We want to keep the environment exactly the same. 

"There's nothing different about how we're going to plan, how we're going to train. 

"We don't need to create that added pressure. We don't need it, we don't want it. 

"We thrive on occasions like this, we've done it in the past and so it's, 'If it ain't broke, don't fix it.' 

"We'll be throwing everything we've got into winning that game."

The Man for the job

Oleksandr Zinchenko frequently looks to play passes into dangerous areas for Manchester City
Oleksandr Zinchenko frequently looks to play passes into dangerous areas for Manchester City

Despite playing at left-back for Manchester City, Oleksandr Zinchenko features in his preferred central midfield role with Ukraine. 

His suitability for that position is evident even from defence, with his ability to influence games on full display as City retained their Premier League crown.

No player in the English top flight completed more final-third passes per 90 minutes than Zinchenko's 26.98 in 2021-22 — and only two averaged more touches per 90 than his 102.84. 

After excelling at Hampden Park, Ukraine will look to the City man to dictate play from the middle of the park against Page's men. 

Ram raider

Aaron Ramsey's career has not gone in the direction he would have hoped since leaving Arsenal three years ago — but he remains a crucial player for Wales. 

He ranks sixth among the Dragons' all-time top scorers with 20 goals — an impressive feat for a central midfielder — and four more strikes would see him move into third outright. 

Ramsey, 31, will need to play his part in winning the midfield battle and supplying Bale with the support he needs in advanced areas. 

The verdict

This one is too close to call but home advantage may prove crucial for the Dragons. 

However, with most neutrals backing Ukraine following Russia's invasion of their homeland, Oleksandr Petrakov's side appear set for victory on what promises to be another emotional evening. 

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