Ukraine a World Cup win
Ukraine are now 90 minutes from one of the most inspiring berths at a FIFA Men’s World Cup ever.
With war and devastation raging at home and Ukraine in the fray begging the national team to “do whatever it takes to get to the World Cup”, Ukraine did exactly that Wednesday in a 3-1 win over Scotland in Glasgow.
Now Ukraine meet Wales in Cardiff on Sunday for the right to play in Qatar in November.
Scotland started well with possession but Ukraine never conceded a clean chance. Meanwhile, the visitors sizzled through Scotland’s net within the opening 10 minutes and just after the half-hour Andriy Yarmolenko put Ukraine 1-0 up with a world-class first touch and a long dink over goalkeeper Craig Gordon.
Ukraine caught Scotland with the long ball as the hosts often held few players back while in possession and failed to press the ball when they lost possession.
Shortly after half-time, Roman Yaremchuk headed in Oleksandr Karavayev’s cross to make it 2-0.
Scotland equalized in the 79th minute when Callum McGregor’s stuttering shot was deflected by Ukraine goalkeeper Heorhiy Bushchan and crossed the line before Taras Stepanenko could clear.
From then on, Ukraine saw the game and Artem Dovbyk scored the final goal with his last shot and earned the chance to make their World Cup dream come true. Wales could be in trouble if Ukraine are as ready for the game as they were on Wednesday.
And that’s hardly guaranteed. The brutal reality of the Russian invasion is preoccupying Ukraine. The Ukrainians had not played a competitive game since November. You trained in Slovenia last month.
Before kick-off, Ukraine’s players, coaches and fans let it all out during the national anthem.
Somehow, the Ukrainians found the strength and composure to put on an impressive performance at Hampden Park. On the same pitch, they knocked Sweden out of Euro 2020 last summer and reached the quarter-finals, their best result in the competition. It’s a talented quad managed by Oleksandr Petrakov, who led Ukraine to a U-20 World Cup title in 2019 and had some big results in Group D European Championship qualifiers, including a home draw against France and a win on third place finisher Finland.
Ukraine finished second in Group D and qualified for this current playoff. The winner will play in Group B at the World Cup alongside USA, England and Iran.
The pedigree is there for Ukraine to do. The performance was also there on Wednesday.
Will it be like this again on Sunday? The world will be watching to find out.