Ukraine stuns Scotland in World Cup qualifiers to give war-torn nation a boost

The emotional victory, which brought tears to many Ukrainian fans – in yellow and blue – puts Ukraine just one win away from qualifying for the tournament. World Cup Qatar later this year.

Wednesday’s playoff match was originally scheduled to take place in March, but the Russian invasion of Ukraine forced the match to be postponed. Ukraine now needs to beat Wales in Cardiff on Sunday in the play-off final to reach the World Cup.

Ukraine suffered even more in the second half after Callum McGregor scored just 10 minutes from the end of the match, but the visitors added a third in stoppage time when they passed Artem Duvbek for a magical win.

Given that staying in Ukraine was too dangerous, the team has been stationed in a training camp in Slovenia since May 1 in preparation for Wednesday’s game. Before playing Scotland, Ukraine’s last competitive match was in November.

“I don’t have any feelings. I left all my feelings on the football field. This victory was not for me, nor for the players, but for our country,” Ukraine’s exhausted coach Oleksandr Petrakov told reporters after the match.

“We played with those who fight in the trenches, those who fight for their last drop of blood. Yes, we took a small step towards our great goal. We still have the Wales game and we will do everything. We are very proud of the Ukrainians.”

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Bagpipes reverberated through the streets of Glasgow hours before kick-off, a familiar sign of support for the Scottish national team.

Historically, the machine is one of the instruments of war, but the country has also embraced it as a symbol of defiance and those roaring sleds took on a new meaning on Wednesday – they seem to play as much with Ukraine as they did in Scotland.

Many of these fans wore head-to-toe Scots uniforms – the tartan skirt and feathers in the hat – making sure to show athletic support for the opponent, whether it was wearing a Ukrainian ribbon or blue and yellow stockings.

While hundreds of Ukrainian fans were getting their tickets from outside the stadium, fans exchanged their cultures, taking turns singing songs and playing music from their country.

Usually an element of contempt for many football fans, the half scarves were proudly worn and the away team was applauded by both groups of fans as they appeared for the warm-up.

Fan groups also worked closely with each of the football associations to distribute flyers with the lyrics of the Ukrainian national anthem – to encourage Scottish fans to sing.

And while the sound of the national anthem is far from perfect, the sound of the national anthem creates an atmosphere inside sunny Hampden Park.

Ukraine’s team lined up for jingles with their country’s flag wrapped around each of the players’ shoulders.

Roman Yaremchuk doubled Ukraine's lead in the second half.

Unparalleled game

In preparing for the match, those inside the Scotland camp had nothing but words of support for Ukraine, but they also promised to forget the broader context as they entered the pitch.

And when football started, they stayed true to their word.

Hampden Park was as fierce as people expected with boos from the crowd, somewhat tongue in cheek, when Ukraine retained control in the early stages.

It was the visitors’ first chance, as goalkeeper Craig Gordon succeeded in a powerful shot from Viktor Tsygankov.

The visitors continued to miss more chances as the lost fans inside Hampden made a lot of noise, realizing that their team had a real chance of winning.

And then, a little over half an hour later, they broke out when captain Yarmolenko unleashed the offside trap and hit the ball over the goalkeeper at the back of the net with a masterful shot.

It was a goal that was undoubtedly impartially celebrated by many.

Practically everyone on this planet does not want us [Scotland] Former Scotland player Ally McCoist said during BT Sport’s commentary on the match.

Ukrainian players, wearing their country's flag, lined up before the match.


There was a real sense of disbelief on the field after Ukraine took the lead.

The instructions from the Ukrainian bench were clear. Stay calm.

In truth, there was simply no stopping this Ukrainian side, perhaps not surprising given the depth of passion that motivates them.

As soon as the second half began, Ukraine doubled their lead by heading Yaremchuk at the back post.

Almost the entire Ukrainian team blocked the billboard and celebrated in front of her fans who were simply in dreamland.

As the match went on and the scale of what they were about to do started to sink in, Ukraine started showing some nerve.

Scotland, buoyed by domestic support, started creating opportunities and exasperated after not benefiting after long periods of acquisition.

As time went on, McGregor finally took advantage of a shaky Heorhiy Bushchan blunder on goal, and the momentum swung the way for Scotland.

This Ukrainian side had more than just football to fight for, and they kept working to the end – eventually cementing their lead with the last kick of the match through Dubbek.

Ukraine’s players were too tired to celebrate though many of them fell to the ground, tired mentally and physically full time.

Now just one win away from playing in Qatar, there is a real chance that Ukraine will be there – which is even more important Russia is banned from competing.

As the last remaining light begins to fade on a special night in Glasgow, all that remains is to sing, cry and dance in the Ukrainian stands.