Wales missed out on promotion to the Nations League‘s top tier as they were beaten at home by Denmark, whose victory makes them Group B4 winners and guarantees them at least a play-off to qualify for Euro 2020.
An attack-minded Wales side had several chances to take the lead but their defensive vulnerability was exposed shortly before half-time as they were expertly picked off by a Danish counter-attack, finished clinically by Nicolai Jorgensen.
Ryan Giggs’ young team pushed forward with increasing desperation in the second half but, for all their endeavour, they were the recipients of a lesson in game management from their more seasoned and savvy opponents.
Gareth Bale was inches away from equalising when Kasper Schmeichel brilliantly saved his free-kick and with two minutes left, Martin Braithwaite struck a fine second goal for the Danes.
Less than a minute later, Bale rounded Schmeichel and finished into an empty net to give Wales hope of an improbable late revival – but the hosts’ onslaught in the closing stages was in vain.
It was a disappointing note on which to end Wales’ inaugural Nations League campaign, which had started so promisingly with September’s 4-1 demolition of the Republic of Ireland.
But that result, as well as last month’s 1-0 triumph in Dublin, was put in perspective by the second defeat against a thoroughly well drilled Danish side.
This was the most important match yet of Giggs’ burgeoning tenure, and his response was to name an extremely attacking, adventurous line-up.
Bale and Aaron Ramsey returned after missing last month’s win in the Republic of Ireland, though Giggs still kept three of his fledgeling attacking talents – David Brooks, Tyler Roberts and Tom Lawrence – in a side seemingly designed with defence a mere afterthought.
It was a risky approach, evident inside three minutes as Christian Eriksen – who scored both goals when Denmark beat Wales in September – was given too much space before firing a 20-yard shot narrowly over the bar.