Scotland 1-3 Ukraine: Heroic visitors stun Scots to reach World Cup play-off final

Roman Yaremchuk’s header just after half-time gave Ukraine a two-goal lead and left Scotland with plenty to do.

A heroic Ukraine sparked a performance of spirit, effort and courage to stun Scotland and win a historic World Cup play-off final against Wales.

With their country mired in trauma amid the ongoing war with Russia, a reunited team shone brightly in sun-drenched Hampden.

Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk struck on either side of the break, before Callum McGregor gave Scotland hope at the end. But Artem Dovbyk sealed a Qatar 2022 showdown in Cardiff on Sunday with the last kick of the ball.

As images of fans watching in war-torn Ukraine circulated, 3,500 fans dressed in light blue and yellow, including 65 orphans invited by the Scottish FA, celebrated wildly in Glasgow on a night no one will forget.

It was an evening that began with the words of the Ukrainian national anthem striking an emotional chord on a charged Hampden.

Moments after his team entered the field draped in the flags of their homeland, the words that were chanted at the top of their lungs took on a whole new meaning. “The glory and freedom of Ukraine have not yet perished. Luck will still smile on us Ukrainian brothers.”

As it turned out, luck had little to do with his team’s triumph here. Perhaps at their best, they were unmatched.

This match was a long time coming. Originally planned for March, but postponed in the hope that Ukraine would be able to play the match, Olexandr Petrakov had to prepare a series of friendlies.

It has been a harrowing journey, with the tears streaming down Oleksandr Zinchenko’s face at Tuesday’s pre-match press conference offering a poignant reminder of all that this game means against the backdrop of Ukraine’s struggles.

But in Glasgow there was no emotional exhaustion. Not a hint of a fading adrenaline rush, not a whiff of the event overtaking them.

Barring a late move by the hosts, Petrakov’s men exposed Scotland’s vulnerabilities, made even more pronounced by the absence of Arsenal’s Kieran Tierney. The starter at 33 minutes articulated that perfectly.

Yarmolenko timed his run to a through ball perfectly when Scotland’s high line failed. It was just him and the whites of Craig Gordon’s eyes. Those eyes soon looked up as the ball floated sublimely over the goalie’s head and into the back of the net.

Steve Clarke shuffled his pack at halftime and threw to Ryan Christie. But just four minutes after the restart, Scotland opened up again with ease.

Oleksandr Karavaev was free from Mount Florida to launch another cross and Yaremchuk faced Aaron Hickey’s attention without much trouble, his header arcing back across the goal into a loop.

Clarke stood motionless on the edge of his technical area as the Benfica striker ran towards his compatriots behind the goal.

In truth, the warning signs had been there. Gordon had denied Viktor Tsygankov at the half volley, while the Hearts goalkeeper saved Yarmolenko from point-blank range with the game scoreless.

Then came the moment when Scotland saw their world pass in front of them. Tartan Army favorite John McGinn was headed in from six yards after Georgiy Bushchan finished off a cross. With the goal at his mercy, the Aston Villa man headed wide. He looked in disbelief.

On the touchline, Clarke seemed impassive, preparing two substitutes for a late charge.

Scotland charged but still worked hard, but with 11 minutes they were gifted a lifeline. McGregor’s effort again went unchallenged by an increasingly nervous Bushchan, who slapped the ball out of the air and just over the line before it was cleared. Hampden erupted in a primal roar of desperate hope rather than founded expectation.

But as Scotland pressed on, they were even more exposed at the back. A series of long clearances in the closing stages broke down, with a final roll of the dice seeing the Ukrainians advance into injury time.

Substitute Dovbyk had all the time he wanted to finally dispatch the ball from Gordon. The Dnipro-1 striker, who hasn’t played an official match since December, showed little emotion when the ball hit the net. Around him, his compatriots enthusiastically celebrated an amazing night for Ukraine as a football team and as a nation.

Man of the match – Oleksandr Zinchenko

Oleksandr Zinchenko
The Manchester City man put on a commanding performance at Hampden

What does this mean?

In what is perhaps the best moment for the Ukraine team, even in victory, the celebrations are set against a somber backdrop.

Coach Petrakov spoke from the heart in his post-match press conference. He dedicated the result to the people of Ukraine, and they may still have another chapter to write in this saga on Sunday. Do not bet against.

Clarke acknowledged his side were outclassed by their opponents, with captain Andy Robertson saying Scotland did not show up. It’s hard to argue with any point.

For Scotland, there have been some truly painful moments in the quest for a football tournament since France ’98. But the stinger of this one will eat more than most.

The level of expectation around the selection has risen. Regardless of the condition of the opponents, there was confidence that Scotland would be in Wales this Sunday.

But what we saw was reminiscent of the false hope that was deflated at last summer’s European Championship, when the Czechs dealt the Scots a heavy blow. They seemed surprised by the occasion. A shot to glory did not fall through his hands, he was ripped off.

With both Ukraine and Wales looking forward to Qatar, personal reflection will be the immediate thought of Clarke and his players, whatever happens in the coming days.

match statistics

  • Scotland have not qualified for the last six men’s World Cups since 1998. Between 1974 and 1998 they only missed one of the seven tournaments.
  • Ukraine advanced from a World Cup qualifying tie for the first time at the fifth attempt, after failing in 1997, 2001, 2009 and 2013.
  • This was only the third meeting between the sides, with Ukraine now winning two, posting a 2-0 victory in October 2006.
  • Yaremchuk has scored four goals in 2022 World Cup qualification, the most of any Ukrainian player. Three of those four goals have come away from home in Kazakhstan, Finland and Scotland.
  • McGregor scored just his second goal in his 43rd game for Scotland, adding to an effort against Croatia at Euro 2020.
  • At 39 years and 152 days, Gordon became the oldest player to appear for Scotland in a World Cup or World Cup qualifier since Jim Leighton in the 1998 final (39 years and 334 days against Morocco).
  • Yarmolenko scored his 45th goal for Ukraine and is now just three behind Andriy Shevchenko (48).

Whats Next?

While Ukraine head to Cardiff, Scotland will have to try to wake up for their Nations League opener against Armenia at Hampden next Wednesday (19.45 BST), followed by trips to Ireland and Armenia over the next six days.

player of the match

ZinchenkoOleksandr Zinchenko

lineups

Scotland

Training 3-4-1-2

  • 1Gordon
  • 4McTominay
  • 5Hanley
  • sixteencopperReplaced forHendrya 68′minutes
  • 22Arena
  • 14GilmourReplaced forarmstronga 68′minutes
  • 8mcgregor
  • 3robertson
  • 7McGinnReserved at 59 minutes
  • 10adams
  • 9DykesReserved at 44 minutesReplaced forchristiea Four. Five’minutes

substitutes

  • twoO’Donnell
  • 6stock
  • elevenchristie
  • 12Marshall
  • 13Hendry
  • fifteenmckenna
  • 17armstrong
  • 18stuart
  • 19Brown
  • twentyFerguson
  • twenty-oneKelly
  • 23Taylor

Ukraine

Training 4-1-4-1

  • 1bush-chan
  • twenty-oneKaravayev
  • 13Zabarnyi
  • 22Matvienko
  • sixteenMykolenko
  • 6StepanenkoReplaced forSidorchuka 90+4′minutes
  • 7YarmolenkoReplaced forZubkova 78′minutes
  • 8MalinovskyiReserved at 11 minutesReplaced forShaparenkoa 72′minutesReserved in 84mins
  • 17Zinchenko
  • fifteenTsygankovReplaced forMudryka 72′minutes
  • 9YaremchukReserved at 5 minutesReplaced forDovbyka 78′minutes

substitutes

  • twoSobol
  • 3bondar
  • 4Sirota
  • 5Sidorchuk
  • 10Shaparenko
  • elevenDovbyk
  • 12Piatov
  • 14Mudryk
  • 18Pikhalyonok
  • 19Kacharaba
  • twentyZubkov
  • 23Riznyk

Referee:
Danny Makkelie

Attendance:
49,772

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