Wales holds Belgium 1-1; Croatia in playoff
BRUSSELS (AP) — Aaron Ramsey spoiled the World Cup celebrations for already-qualified Belgium on Tuesday, scoring a late goal to give Wales an unexpected 1-1 draw against the Group A winners.
Belgium thought Kevin De Bruyne’s fourth goal of the qualifying campaign would suffice for yet another win for the Red Devils, but Arsenal’s Ramsey had a fine performance rewarded with an 88th minute strike to briefly dampen the enthusiasm of the 48,000 fans at the King Baudouin stadium.
In the other Group A game Croatia lost 2-0 to Scotland to finish second in the group and scrape through into the playoffs, despite three defeats and a draw in its last four games. Croatia earned a total of 17 points out of a possible 30, well behind Belgium’s 26.
Serbia beat Macedonia 5-1 and finished third in the group with 14 points, three more than Scotland.
All of Belgium was ready to celebrate qualification, but nobody told already eliminated Wales, which put up a staunch defense throughout and had the resilience to come back when all thought the game was over. As so often in Belgium’s qualifying campaign, Chelsea’s De Bruyne made the difference and in the 65th minute scored from a tight angle off a Romelu Lukaku pass.
The Everton forward, who scored twice to beat Croatia 2-1 and qualify Belgium for Brazil last Friday, came close on a couple of occasions, but was not as lethal.
Wales made more of its few chances. On his 78th and final appearance for Wales, Craig Bellamy sent through a pass to Ramsey and the in-form forward smartly pushed the ball under goalie Thibaut Courtois from a tight angle.
In Glasgow, Robert Snodgrass scored in the 27th, and Steven Naismit found the net in the 73rd to give Scotland a deserved victory over Croatia, which slumped badly toward the end of its qualifying campaign and just held on to qualify for the playoffs.