Ukraine’s World Cup dream remains alive after beating Scotland 3-1 in their playoff semifinal at Hampden Park on Wednesday to set up a winner-take-all clash with Wales for a spot in Qatar.
Playing their first official game since Russia’s invasion of the country in February, Ukraine put in a superb performance to outplay a Scotland team that must continue to wait for their first World Cup appearance since 1998.
The game barely meant anything in the context of the giant fight the nation had been at. Even as it was being played, reports emerged that Russia had fired eight missiles on Ukraine and that there was an air raid all across the country. Olga Tukuriak, an independent journalist, shared that she was watching the game in a basement on her Twitter feed.
‘A unique experience’, as she called it, with Ukraine leading at the Hampden Park while Lviv governor confirmed that several explosions took place in the rural part of the city in the country’s western region.
Inside the stadium in Glasgow, the fans with the blue and yellow flags made sure they were heard and their banners read by the world.
The last time they had played an international game was back in November 2021, a World Cup qualifier against Bosnia and Herzegovina that they won 0-2.
The game began with the away fans chanting for the Armed Forces of Ukraine and singing the national anthem in unison with their players, who had the national flag draped around their shoulders ahead of the kick-off.
Captain Andriy Yarmolenko opened the scoring for the visitors with a fine lofted finish in the 33rd minute after beating the Scottish offside trap. Striker Roman Yaremchuk then gave Ukraine some breathing room with a header past Craig Gordon just four minutes into the second half.
Goals from Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk had put a confident and dominant Ukraine 2-0 up before Callum McGregor pulled a goal back for the Scots in the 79th minute.
The goal injected some belief into Scotland, who applied some late pressure but deep into stoppage time, substitute Artem Dovbyk finished off a counterattack to secure the victory.
An emotionally drained Ukraine coach Oleksandr Petrakov said his team had been playing for all those struggling back home.
“We played for them, for those who fight with their last drop of blood, for those who suffer every day,” he said.
“We took baby steps towards our great aim, we have the Wales game to come and we will do everything people expect us to do,” he said.