Ukraine keeps World Cup dream alive with win over Scotland

GLASGOW — Ukraine beat Scotland on Wednesday night in Glasgow, keeping alive the war-torn country’s hopes of qualifying for the 2022 football World Cup.

Powered by fervent support on an emotionally charged night at Hampden Park, Ukraine won 3-1, in its first game since Russia invaded at the end of February.

Ukraine’s heroes on the night were Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk, who saw off a dismal Scotland on a balmy evening in Glasgow. The result puts Ukraine one step away from this winter’s World Cup in Qatar.

Ukraine will now face Wales on Sunday in Cardiff in a final playoff for the last European qualifying place. The winner will join a World Cup group containing England, the U.S. and Iran.

Despite the turmoil at home, Ukraine produced a performance of power, pace and technique — married with remarkable composure, given the unique circumstances surrounding the match.

Entering the arena draped in blue and yellow flags, Ukraine’s players belted out their national anthem; a rallying cry that was echoed heartily by the Ukrainian section of the crowd.

But far from being caught up in the heightened emotion surrounding the game, the Ukrainian team found its stride quickly, repeatedly finding big gaps in the Scottish midfield.

The game’s first decisive moment, one Scotland struggled to recover from, arrived 30 minutes in.

Yarmolenko hunted down a long ball over the top of the Scottish defense and lobbed goalkeeper Craig Gordon. Cue bedlam in the Ukrainian section — filled with thousands of fans from all over western Europe, including some refugees who have fled the war in the last few weeks.

Yaremchuk then put the game out of Scotland’s reach moments into the second half, with a towering header at the back post after a cross from the right. The Benfica forward charged toward the Ukrainian crowd, which responded with unbridled joy.

A goal from Callum McGregor with just over 10 minutes to go gave Scotland hope, but Ukraine was able to hold the hosts at arm’s length during a frantic final period, before scoring with the final kick of the game through Artem Dovbyk on the counterattack.

Ukrainians in Glasgow who spoke to POLITICO talked of victory as a morale boost for their “warriors” on the front line.

With one match to go, who would now bet against Ukraine now achieving star player Oleksandr Zinchenko’s “dream” of qualifying for Qatar.

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