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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

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Wednesday, May 29, 2024

Ukraine closer to WC qualification


Ukraine’s emotion-filled quest to qualify for the World Cup amid an ongoing war moved past the first hurdle with a 3-1 win over Scotland on Wednesday in a pulsating playoff semifinal.

Now the team needs just one more win to reach Qatar.

Veteran captain Andriy Yarmolenko lifted his nation by scoring a deft lobbed goal in the 33rd minute and then helped set up Roman Yaremchuk’s header in the 49th to make it 2-0.
Ukraine dominated for much of a deserved win but had to resist a Scotland revival as risk-filled attacks brought a goal in the 79th by Callum McGregor, before Ukraine substitute Artem Dovbyk broke clear to score with the last kick of the game.

Dovbyk led teammates toward the corner of the stadium to share the celebration with 3,000 Ukraine fans in the 51,000 crowd, applauding each other with hands raised high above their heads.

Ukraine coach Oleksandr Petrakov said the win was for “the armed forces in the trenches and in the hospitals, who give their last drop of blood, those in Ukraine who suffer every day.”

Now Ukraine moves on to face Wales on Sunday with a place at the World Cup at stake.
The winner in Cardiff will go to Qatar in November to play in a group against England, the United States and Iran.

Ukraine put in a slick display despite using six starters who had not played a competitive game of any kind since December.

Most of Ukraine’s squad play for home-based clubs whose league was shut down after Russia’s invasion, and the playoff in Glasgow was postponed in March. FIFA and Scotland agreed to give the Ukrainian team a fair chance to prepare for games that have become a focus of national identity and pride.

Scotland lacked the class needed and its wait for World Cup soccer now extends beyond the 24 years since it went to the 1998 tournament.

“I am suffering, the coaching staff are suffering and more than anybody the players are suffering,” Scotland coach Steve Clarke said. “The best team won the game.”

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