Ukraine manager Oleksandr Petrakov dedicated his side’s 3-1 win over Scotland to reach a World Cup play-off final to those fighting in the trenches of his war-torn homeland. In their first competitive match since Ukraine was invaded by Russia, Andriy Yarmolenko, Roman Yaremchuk and Artem Dovbyk scored the goals to set up a clash away to Wales on Sunday for a place in Qatar later this year.
“This victory was not for me or for the team members, it was for our country. This was a huge victory for Ukraine,” said Petrakov.
“They did everything for the people they play for, the Ukrainians.
“For the people watching them back home: the armed forces in the trenches, the people working in the hospitals. They say thank you to us and we say thank you to them.”
The match had been moved from March, just weeks after the war began, to give Ukraine the chance to fulfill the fixture.
Wednesday’s victory was also celebrated by Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“Thank you guys! Two hours of happiness, something we have become unaccustomed to,” Zelenskyy said in an online post.
“Joy to our soldiers, joy to the entire country. We are all fighting, everyone on their own front. We will fight on, we will withstand everything, we will win. For we are Ukrainians.”
Ukraine’s one previous appearance at the World Cup came in 2006. Getty Images
Ukraine’s traveling support, who had come from across the United Kingdom and from as far away as Australia and the United States to cheer on their team, were jubilant, with many no doubts now planning to extend their trip to a weekend in South Wales.
Whether they will be planning trips to Doha after Sunday’s game remains to be seen, but they will certainly have plenty of belief after an impressive display.
Ukraine’s home-based players had not played competitive football since December, but they were quick out of the blocks and caused Scotland problems from the outset.
Home keeper Gordon had to make three saves in the opening 25 minutes to keep the game scoreless with Ukraine’s smooth passing and movement too much for a hesitant Scottish defence.
The goal finally came in the 33rd when Yarmolenko sprung the offside trap and latched on to a ball over the top from Ruslan Malinovskyi and lobbed the advancing Gordon.
Ukraine were full value for their half-time lead and extended their advantage four minutes after the break when Yaremchuk beat two Scottish defenders to reach a cross from Oleksandr Karavaev and head into the far corner.
With the home crowd turning against their team and sloppy passing undermining attempts to gain any sort of momentum, Scotland looked beaten, but they found a way back into the game.
Ukraine keeper Georgiy Bushchan punched the ball out in a crowed box and McGregor struck it goalward, and although Taras Stepanenko looked to have cleared, the ball was ruled to have crossed the line and a goal awarded.
Hampden was awakened, and with Ukraine tiring, Scotland pushed forward in numbers in search of a way to take the game into extra time.
But after wasting a couple of chances on the break, with the final kick of the match, Dovbyk put the game to bed and set off emotional celebrations.
It was a deserved win for Ukraine and one that came more from their quality football than their expected spirit.
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