Ukraine stun Scotland in World Cup qualifiers to boost morale in war-torn nation

The emotional win, which brought many Ukrainian fans to tears – sporting the colors yellow and blue – puts Ukraine one win away from qualifying for the Qatar World Cup later this year.

Wednesday’s qualifiers were originally scheduled to take place in March, but Russia’s invasion of Ukraine forced the match to be postponed. Ukraine must now beat Wales in Cardiff on Sunday in their playoff final to reach the World Cup.

Ukraine suffered more in the second half after Callum McGregor netted with just 10 minutes to play, but the visitors added a third goal in stoppage time when Artem Dovbyk pulled clear to secure a magical win.

Since staying in Ukraine had been too dangerous, the team has been based in a training camp in Slovenia since May 1 to prepare for Wednesday’s game. Before facing Scotland, Ukraine’s last competitive game was in November.

“I have no emotions. All my emotions are left on the football pitch. This victory was not for me, not for the players, it was for our country,” said the head coach Ukrainian Oleksandr Petrakov to reporters after the game.

“We played for those who fight in the trenches, those who fight for their last drop of blood. Yes, we have taken a small step towards our big goal. We still have the Wales game ahead of us and we We will do everything. We are extremely proud Ukrainians.”

Special backdrop

The soulful sound of bagpipes had echoed through the streets of Glasgow hours before kick-off, a familiar sign of support for the Scotland national team.

Historically, the instrument is an instrument of war, but the country has also embraced it as a symbol of defiance and those rousing skirls took on new meaning on Wednesday – apparently playing for Ukraine as well as Scotland.

Many of those fans dressed head-to-toe in Scottish attire – tartan kilts and feathered hats – had made sure to show their sartorial support for the opposition, whether it was wearing Ukrainian-colored ribbon or flags. blue and yellow socks.

As hundreds of Ukrainian fans collected their tickets outside the stadium, fans shared their cultures, taking turns singing songs and playing music from their country.

Normally an item of disdain for many football fans, the half-and-half scarves were proudly worn and the away team were cheered on by both sets of supporters as they emerged for the warm-up.

Supporters’ groups also worked closely with the two football associations to distribute leaflets containing the lyrics to the Ukrainian national anthem, encouraging Scottish fans to sing along.

And, although far from perfect, the sound of the two national anthems brought the atmosphere inside a sunny park in Hampden to a dizzying crescendo.

The Ukrainian team lined up for the anthems with their country’s flag wrapped around the shoulders of each of the players.

A game like no other

In the build-up to the match, those inside the Scottish camp had only words of support for Ukraine, but also promised to forget the larger context as they entered the pitch.

And when football started, they stayed true to their word.

Hampden Park was as fierce as people expected with the crowd booing, somewhat ironically, when Ukraine kept the ball early.

It was the visitors who had the first chance, with goalkeeper Craig Gordon doing well to put his fingertips on Viktor Tsygankov’s ferocious shot.

The visitors continued to lose more chances as the crowd inside Hampden made a lot of noise, realizing their side had a real chance of winning.

And then, just after the half hour mark, they broke when captain Yarmolenko triggered the offside trap and sent the ball over the keeper into the back of the net with a deft finish.

It was a goal that was undoubtedly celebrated by many neutrals.

“Virtually everyone on the planet doesn’t want us [Scotland] to win,” former Scotland player Ally McCoist said during BT Sport’s commentary on the game.

The Ukrainian players lined up draped in their country's flag before the game.

Incredulity

There was a genuine sense of disbelief inside the stadium after Ukraine took the lead.

The instructions from the Ukraine bench were clear; stay calm.

In truth, nothing could stop this Ukrainian team, which is perhaps unsurprising considering the depth of emotion that drove them.

Early in the second half, Ukraine doubled their lead with Yaremchuk in the lead at the far post.

Almost the entire Ukrainian team jumped on the billboard and celebrated in front of their fans who were simply in dreamland.

As the match wore on and the magnitude of what they were about to do began to show, Ukraine began to show some nervousness.

Scotland, buoyed by home support, began to create chances and were furious at not taking advantage after long spells of possession.

With time ticking away, McGregor finally capitalized on a frail Heorhiy Bushchan error in goal and the momentum swung in Scotland’s direction.

This Ukrainian side had something more than football to defend, however, and dug in until the end – eventually extending their lead with the final kick of the game through Dovbyk.

The Ukrainian players were too tired to celebrate, but many fell to the ground, mentally and physically exhausted full time.

Now that there’s just one win left to contend for in Qatar, there’s a real chance Ukraine will be there – something all the more important given Russia are banned from competition.

As the last remaining light began to fade on a special night in Glasgow, all that remained were Ukrainian fans singing, crying and dancing in the stands.

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