Wales's hopes of reaching the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ were dealt a huge blow in the form of a 2-0 loss to Finland in a European Zone, Group 4 qualifier. The visitors took the lead at the Millennium Stadium three minutes before half-time, when former Charlton Athletic forward Jonatan Johansson's 42nd-minute shot went in off the post after he had been played in by Jari Litmanen, once of Liverpool.
Substitute Shefki Kuqi made sure of victory when he struck in the second minute of stoppage time. Defeat left Wales, who haven't appeared in the finals of a major tournament since the 1958 FIFA World Cup Sweden™, down in fourth place in the Europe Zone, Group 4 qualifying pool, ahead of the 1 April match with football giants Germany.
"That was two poor sides trying to contest this game and neither of us have got a glimmer of hope of qualifying [for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™]," the dejected Manchester City striker and Wales captain Craig Bellamy said. "That is a fact, from what I've just seen today.
"Where we go from here, God knows. We've just got a lot of games to play and get as many points as we can but same old story, we're out of the group," said Bellamy. "They are not a good side. I do feel we are the better side even though we have just lost. They sucker-punched us, really. It was just poor to be honest."
Wales manager John Toshack disagreed with Bellamy, insisting all was not lost for his largely young team. "I'm obviously disappointed. They were an experienced side and kept the ball very well," he said.
"During the second period it got more and more difficult against very experienced players. It was a must-win for either side in a group where we have drawn the short straw facing Germany and Russia, two of the best teams in Europe. But we can pick ourselves up, we have done it in the past. We can recover from this with five games left.
"I'm not angry, I try to understand why people cannot perform as well as they can. But they are very upset, they don't need to be told. We controlled the game at times but did not have the cutting edge."
Stuart Baxter, Finland's English manager, was pleased with his team's display and in particular the performance of veteran midfielder Litmanen. "That was a very good performance and I was pleased that there were 2,000 Finnish fans here to see it," Baxter said.
"Jari was outstanding, he is in the process of re-inventing himself at 38. He may not be able to do the runs he used to a few years ago, but he can still pass the ball and he dominated the game. He is an amazing person. He has been a great servant to Finnish football, a great player."