Wales relegated from top division after loss
Swiderski scores only goal of the game for visitors
Bale fails to fire after recovering from jetlag to start
Only time will tell whether this relegation from the top tier of the Nations League is a major issue for Wales and, to be frank, that is a problem for another day. For now the World Cup is the only thought on Welsh minds, and the only question that needs to be asked is whether Rob Page’s team will be ready for Qatar.
There are no more games for Wales before the tournament starts. This is it now, and this is how their preparations ended: with a scrappy loss to Poland in Cardiff. Wales were without a series of key players and struggled as a result, even though Gareth Bale was in their line-up.
Karol Swiderski’s second-half strike was the decisive moment on the night, with Wales unable to find an equaliser without the likes of Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Harry Wilson in their midfield. Page’s team can certainly play better than they did here, and they will have to play better if they are to succeed later this year.
“For us to compete at the top level we are going to need every player fit and available,” said Page. “That is nothing against the rest of the squad — they are brilliant, to a man. But we need our best players on the pitch.”
It was, no doubt, with the World Cup in mind that Page chose to start Bale, who had recovered from his jetlag following his journey back from Los Angeles. Bale played behind the duo of Daniel James and Brennan Johnson, but was unable to have a significant impact.
In truth, Bale’s most memorable moment of the first half was when his hair fell out of its ponytail. The home crowd was subsequently treated to the bizarre sight of a world-class footballer running around the pitch, trying to tackle his opponents, with two hands above his head, holding his hair in place. Bale was also without his captain's anti-discriminatory One Love armband, which had been accidentally left behind in Belgium last week.
Bale’s vision eventually cleared and he would have hoped to see the Polish net bulge a few minutes later, when Johnson’s shot deflected off James and spun narrowly wide.
There had also been an earlier chance for James, who sprinted in behind before being denied by Poland goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny. “It is just that final pass and final shot,” said Page. “That is where we need to get better.”
At the other end, the closest Poland came to an opener was when Wayne Hennessey, the Wales goalkeeper, miscontrolled the ball in his box. Only a desperate scramble, in which Hennessey used the post for momentum, prevented an own goal.
The game’s first moment of genuine quality arrived shortly after half-time, when Robert Lewandowski showed why he is arguably the world’s finest striker. His first-time pass, caressed over his shoulder, allowed Swiderski a simple finish.
There were promising attacking moments to come for Wales but not enough clear chances until the 90th minute, when Bale’s header struck the crossbar. A sign that it was not his evening, perhaps, but he knows there are more important nights to come.
Wales lose to Poland: as it happened
FT: Wales 0 Poland 1
All over in Cardiff.
Wales are relegated from League A.
Some late pressure for Poland wasn't enough in the end to get the win.
The hosts sign off for the World Cup with their final game on home soil ending in defeat.
90+4 min: Wales 0 Poland 1
Colwill wins a free-kick on the corner of the box.
But nothing comes from it.
That will surely be that.
90+2 min: Wales 0 Poland 1
It's a corner to Wales.
And its initially cleared but Wakes works it back in and look for Moore at the far post.
He climbs on the Polish defenders.
And apparently that warrants the yellow card.
90+2 min: Wales 0 Poland 1
A scramble in the box but the visitors clear
But the hosts continue to push in these final moments.
90+1 min: Wales 0 Poland 1
That was so close for Wales.
Thomas curls in a cross for Bale, who cannons a header off the bar.
A Poland defender is down, and the Welsh captain isn't convinced it's a real injury.
This really isn't Wales' day.
89 min: Wales 0 Poland 1
A free-kick is played short to Williams, and his shot is charged down.
Five minutes of added time here.
88 min: Wales 0 Poland 1
Bereszynski is in the book for bringing down James.
Decent chance to whip in a freekick here...
Surely, this is the hosts final chance.
84 min: Wales 0 Poland 1
It's just not happening for Dan James.
He bulldozes his way down the left before getting to the byline.
But the cross goes straight to the keeper.
82 min: Wales 0 Poland 1
Poland are dominating possession now in these final minutes.
Change for Poland.
Zurkowski is replaced by Szymariski.
80 min: Wales O Poland 1
A dangerous ball over the top from Poland, which Hennessey has to come to head clear.
78 min: Wales 0 Poland 1
Tom James very nearly gets the breakthrough for Wales.
He sends a curling cross which left the keeper scrambling, but it's just about turned round for a corner, which is headed over by Rodon.
75 min: Wales 0 Poland 1
Colwill tries to make something happen for his side in the box, but the visitors clear their lines effectively.
Anyway, Poland win a free-kick on the half-way line after Cabango is penalised for a foul on the Polish captain.
The visitors win a corner from nothing.
72 min: Wales 0 Poland 1
Robert Page has gone all out attack now .
As Dylan Levitt is off for Rublin Colwill.
70 min: Wales 0 Poland 1
James does brilliantly to get behind on the left.
But his cross is straight out for a goal kick.
65 min: Wales 0 Poland 1
Johnson is trying to make something happen, but his drive is deflected over.
64 min: Wales 0 Poland 1
Poland blink first and make the first substitution of the match.
As Swiderski the goal-scorer will make way for Piatek.
60 min: Wales 0 Poland 1
What a save from the Polish goalkeeper.
Szczesny gets down brilliantly to deny Johnson's low effort.
56 min: Wales 0 Poland 1
It's a world class touch from the Polish captain on the edge of the penalty box.
He is able to control the cross and anticipates Karol Swiderski's run.
And it's a brilliant finish from the 25-year-old who slots it home for the visitors.
Wales have it all to do now!
56 min: Wales 0 Poland 1
55 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
11 minutes into this second half in Cardiff.
Lovely run from Norrington-Davies.
As he bursts through the midfield to motor his way towards the goal.
But it sprays it wide to Johnson.
52 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
Zielinksi has had a good game for the visitors so far.
However, it wasn't his best moment, as he miscontrols on the byline after a nice bit of build-up down the left.
50 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
The free-kick finds the head of Bednarek, but he cant't get a decent connection on it.
48 min: Wales O Poland 0
Zurkowski thinks he's won a corner, but the flag is up.
Williams is now in the book for a late challenge on Bereszynski, who looks in some distress.
Poland have started this half brightly and now they have a free-kick near the corner flag.
45 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
We are back underway in Cardiff - can the hosts break the deadlock?
First half thoughts..
Our football reporter Sam Dean's analysis
Wales are rarely at their attacking best without Kieffer Moore in their attack and that pattern has continued tonight. In truth it was not the most thrilling first half but Wales look defensively solid once more, and that is arguably the most important area of the game to get right ahead of the World Cup. If they can defend well, it only takes one moment of class at the other end.
HT: Wales 0 Poland 0
That's the end of the first half.
And it's all pretty even so far in Cardiff.
Both teams have had their opportunities, but they both lack a bit of quality in the box.
45+1 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
Former Liverpool player Neco Williams is able to find some space, but Norrington-Davies overhits the pass to him.
Wales have the players to find openings, but they just need to be better in the final third.
45 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
That was decent stuff from Morrell, who finds Gareth Bale in a pocket of space on the half-way line.
The Welsh captain looks up and tries to play in Johnson.
Three minutes to be added on.
42 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
What a soft yellow for Rhys Norrington-Davies for a foul on the Polish captain.
That is embarrassing from Lewandowski.
41 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
That was excellent from Johnson, who rifles a low shot on the edge of the area.
It seems to take a deflection off Dan James before it goes wide.
40 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
A beautiful run from the Welsh captain, who was played in by Robert's throw.
But the keeper was there to control it at the near post.
38 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
Johnson has been busting his gut to try and latch on to a ball down the right and he wins the throw.
35 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
First card of the night as Kyrchowiak receives yellow for fouling Morrell
32 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
Chance for the hosts!
That could have been 1-0.
Ben Cabango's clearance becomes a pass and is able to send Dan Jams clear.
However, his first shot is saved by the Polish goalkeeper and then his shot/cross is saved on the rebound.
That is the moment that Wales have been waiting for.
31 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
That was a good cross from Wales, but Connor Roberts fouls Zielinksi.
28 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
The visitors have dominated possession but haven't really made anything meaningful from it.
Lewandowski 's chance was a good one but you feel that sort of effort he should be putting away.
25 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
First save of the night as Hennessey is there to get behind Lewandowski's header from Zalewski's freekick.
That was a close chance for the visitors.
23 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
Cabango and Rodon allow the ball to run back to him and he slices it out for a throw.
19 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
So far, it has been a pretty end-to end game in Cardiff.
Zurowski is in and races away through a gap in the Welsh defence, but it somehow bobbles off his own foot and a combination of Williams and Rodon ensure the hosts survive.
17 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
Gareth Bale is penalised for sliding in on Glik.
The Welsh captain was late there and you feel he is lucky not to get a booking.
14 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
Williams concedes a throw deep inside the Wales half.
However, the hosts recover well and are working it down the right.
Johnson was trying to make something happen, but his low ball into the box is turned behind for the corner.
However, James puts the corner straight out of play.
11 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
Some lovely moment down the left from Johnson as he tries to lay off a one-two with James.
It goes out for a goal kick.
But there is a huge cheer from the home fans as the Polish captain miscontrols at the other end.
9 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
Poland aren't happy with that one.
As Cabango takes a heavy touch and goes to win it back, but catches a bit of Zielinski in the process.
Didn't look a massive amount in it, but the Welshman did catch him.
7 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
First glimpse for the visitors, but Wayne Hennessey grabs the ball at the second attempt.
The Welsh defence were slow to react to that.
The hosts have started on the front foot here, but that is the second nervy moment at the back for them here.
5 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
First flash of Gareth Bale's capabilities, as he does his best to flick the ball around the Polish defence but he sadly can't keep hold of it, but Levitt is able to mop up nicely.
He tries to get around the Polish defender, but he is help up.
3 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
Nice striking stat for you, courtesy of our football reporter Sam Dean
Gareth Bale has played a full 90 minutes, for club or country, since September 8th last year. That's a long old time. Wales can only hope these next two months allow him to build his fitness properly, without any hitches.
2 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
Zelienski looks to be in the clear after a mistake from Cabango, but he fires wide.
But the flag is up anyway.
1 min: Wales 0 Poland 0
It is a positive start for Wales, as James is able to wiggle past a couple of challenges to fizz a ball into the box for the hosts.
But it is easily dealt with by the Polish defense.
We've had the national anthems
And it's a great atmosphere in Cardiff, that's got to help the hosts.
Latvian referee Andris Treimanis will get us underway under the lights.
The teams are out on the pitch
They both emerge to the Nations League anthem, which isn't really so much of a banger if I'm honest.
The hosts are without a win in four games for the first time since June 2017.
Poland are winless in four matches since their opening Nations League victory over Wales in June.
Captain Robert Lewandowski is Poland's top scorer with 76 goals from 133 appearances.
The atmosphere is building in Cardiff
Warm ups are underway in Cardiff
Poland's starting XI
Poland: Szczesny, Klwoir, Bednarek, Lewandowski, Krychowiak, Zurkowski, Glik, Swiderski, Bereszynski, Zielinski, Zalewski
Subs: Skorupski, Dragowksi, Gummy, Kedziora, Wieteska, Milik, Piotrowski, Grosicki, Skoras, Kaminski, Szymanski, Piatak
Wales' starting XI
Wales: Hennessey; Cabango, Rodon, Norrington-Davies; C Roberts, Morrell, Levitt, N Williams; Johnson, Bale (captain) James.
Subs: Ward, King, Gunter, Colwill, Smith, Roberts, Moore, Burns, Williams, Harris, Thomas, James
Wales manager Robert Page has insisted his players will forget about the World Cup tonight as they try to stay in the top tier of the Nations League.
“It’s a final. Forget the World Cup, this is the game we want to win on Sunday.
“We’ve just got to recover the lads. There’ll be some changes made and we’ll go and put a team out to win the game.”
Wales host Poland in the Uefa Nations League this evening knowing that only a win will do if they want to avoid relegation to League B.
The hosts must prevail in Cardiff, as Poland are aware that a draw will be enough to retain their status in the top tier.
With Wales sitting at the bottom of League A Group four with one point from five matches, there will be those who claim that Robert Page's side belong lower down in the Uefa Nations League.
However, regardless of what happens this evening, Wales will be proud of their efforts among this company, their four defeats to Belgium, Netherlands and Poland coming by one-goal margins.
Even in losing to Belgium on Thursday evening, Wales came out of the contest in Brussels with praise, halving a 2-0 deficit after half time through Keiffer Moore and threatening an equaliser against one of the world's best teams.
Nevertheless, Wales need to find a way of turning another encouraging performance into three points tonight as they bid to move past third placed Poland.
Although Poland won the reverse fixture 2-1, that is largely irrelevant as Wales have already scored more goals in the group and possessing a better goal difference.
Wales have that in their favour tonight, a consequence of the visitors losing 6-1 to Belgium, which sets up an intriguing fixture this evening.
We will have all the build-up and team news for you ahead of the game which kicks off at 7.45pm.