World Cup qualifying victory in Scotland: War-torn Ukraine is in the playoff final

At the kick-off, the Ukrainian national team strides wrapped in their country's flag.

World Cup qualifying victory in Scotland: War-torn Ukraine is in the playoff final

At the kick-off, the Ukrainian national team strides wrapped in their country's flag. In the semi-finals of the World Cup playoffs, they then put in a strong performance and deservedly beat Scotland. The final to qualify for the tournament in Qatar is against Wales on Sunday.

In the middle of the war, the Ukrainian national soccer team gave their compatriots a small sporting ray of hope. Almost without proper preparation, Ukraine won the semi-finals for the last European World Cup ticket in Scotland, deservedly 3-1 (1-0) and can dream of the finals in Qatar. The final hurdle is the play-off final in Cardiff against hosts Wales on Sunday.

Former Dortmund player Andriy Jarmolenko (33'), Roman Yaremchuk (49') and Artem Dovbyk (5'90) were the heroes of the day at Glasgow's sold-out Hampden Park on Wednesday. Jarmolenko lobbed the ball sensitively over Scottish goalkeeper Craig Gordon, Yaremchuk hit his head - his ecstatic celebration in front of the 3,000 fans in the away block was a goosebump moment. Callum McGregor (79th) scored the goal for the Scots.

For the Ukrainians, the semi-final duel was incredibly emotionally charged, much more than just a boring football game. He spoke to many people from all over the world, said Oleg Zinchenko from Manchester City with tears: "They all have the dream that the war will end." The team also has a dream: "They want to be at the World Cup. We want to give the Ukrainians that feeling because they need it at this time."

However, the task turned out to be extremely difficult. Although the playoffs were postponed after the beginning of the Russian war of aggression, an orderly preparation was mentally and physically unthinkable. "We keep getting messages from our soldiers who want us to go to the World Cup," reported midfielder Taras Stepanenko (Shakhtar Donetsk), who himself had not trained for a month. From time to time there was a friendly or benefit game - like on May 10 at Borussia Mönchengladbach.

Still, Ukraine did very well. Viktor Zygankow (9') and Jarmolenko (14') forced Gordon to brilliant saves in the Scottish goal. It was clear early on that the game wasn't easy mentally for the Scots either: despite all their own dreams of the World Cup, the opponent was very lucky to win. The friendly atmosphere in Hampden Park did the rest.

The Scots didn't have a chance to score for more than an hour, then John McGinn (Aston Villa/67.) missed the goal that was already certain to be a hit with his head. McGregor brought hope back to the hosts, it was an exciting, very intense final phase.

Wales does not seem unbeatable for Ukraine either: The British failed a play-off dress rehearsal at the start of the Nations League on Wednesday. Wales lost 2-1 (0-0) to Poland in Wroclaw, but some of the best players were rested for Sunday.

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