Scotland vs Ukraine – Football Match Report – 1 June 2022
Ukraine’s World Cup dream remains alive and well after beating Scotland 3-1 in the playoff semi-final at Hampden Park on Wednesday to set up a clash with Wales for a place in Qatar.
Playing their first official match since Russia invaded the country in February, Ukraine put in a superb performance to overtake a Scottish side who must continue to await their first World Cup appearance since 1998.
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Captain Andriy Yarmolenko opened the scoring for the visitors with a fine smoothed finish in the 33rd minute after thwarting Scotland’s offside trap. Striker Roman Yaremchuk then gave Ukraine some respite with a header past Craig Gordon just four minutes into the second half.
That cushion proved necessary as Scotland threatened a late comeback and shot within a goal when Ukraine keeper Georgiy Bushchan let a Callum McGregor shot slip through their fingers and cross the line 11 minutes from the end.
But a Ukrainian team which knew how to marry passion and technical quality throughout the meeting fully deserved their victory and ensured it in the last seconds when Artem Dovbyk found the net following a breakaway.
The majority of the Ukrainian team plays in the country’s domestic league, which has been on hiatus since the start of the Russian-induced war 99 days ago. But, having only had three exhibition games against European club sides to prepare for, they are just 90 minutes away from the World Cup.
The winner between Wales and Ukraine in Cardiff on Sunday (live stream, ESPN+, noon ET) will be in Group B in Qatar, alongside England, USA and Iran.
Wednesday’s victory was also celebrated by Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy.
“Thank you guys! Two hours of bliss, something we’re not used to anymore,” Zelenskyy said in an online post.
“Joy to our soldiers, joy to the whole country. We are all fighting, each on his own front. We will continue to fight, we will resist everything, we will win. Because we are Ukrainians.”
An emotionally drained Ukrainian coach, Oleksandr Petrakov, said his team played for everyone struggling at home.
“We played for them, for those who fight until their last drop of blood, for those who suffer every day,” he said.
“We have taken small steps towards our big goal, we have the game against Wales coming up and we will do everything people expect of us,” he said.
The traveling support from Ukraine, who had traveled from all over the UK and as far away as Australia and the United States to cheer on his team, was jubilant, and many were no doubt considering extending their trip by a weekend in South Wales.
Whether they will plan any trips to Doha after Sunday’s game remains to be seen, but they will certainly be convinced after an impressive performance.
The home-based Ukrainian players hadn’t played competitive football since December, but they were quickly out of the blocks and caused Scotland problems from the start.
Home goalkeeper Gordon had to make three saves in the opening 25 minutes to keep the game scoreless with Ukraine’s fluid passing and too much movement for a tentative Scotland defence.
The goal finally came in the 33rd when Yarmolenko triggered the offside trap and latched onto a ball over the top of Ruslan Malinovskyi and lobbed the advancing Gordon.
Ukraine took full advantage of their half-time lead and increased their advantage four minutes after the break when Yaremchuk beat two Scottish defenders to hit a cross from Oleksandr Karavaev and head for the far corner.
As the home crowd turned against their team and sloppy passing undermined attempts to gain any sort of momentum, Scotland looked beaten, but they found a way back into the game.
Ukrainian goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan kicked the ball into a crowded box and McGregor kicked it towards goal, and although Taras Stepanenko appeared to have cleared the ball was ruled to have crossed the line and a goal was awarded.
Hampden was roused, and with Ukraine tired, Scotland pushed forward in numbers looking for a way to extend the game.
But after squandering a few chances at the break, with the game’s final kick, Dovbyk put the game to bed and sparked emotional celebrations.
It was a deserved victory for Ukraine and one that came more from the quality of their football than from their expected spirit.
For Scotland, it was the bitter end to their hopes of a first World Cup appearance in 24 years.
“It’s a disappointing night. To be honest, the best team of the night won,” coach Steve Clarke said.
“Now it’s a night to suffer, we’re going to suffer together. It’s going to take at least 48 hours to move on. When you lose a match of this magnitude, it hurts,” he added.
Information from Reuters was used in this report.