Football world erupts over stirring Ukraine scenes: 'Inspirational'
The football world has united in celebration of Ukraine after the war-torn country booked their spot in a World Cup play-off final, courtesy of a rousing 3-1 win against Scotland.
Played at the Scots' Hampden Park home ground, fans came together in an extraordinary show of support for Ukraine in an emotionally charged affair.
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The Ukrainian players entered the field draped in yellow and blue flags before a stirring national anthem which was applauded from all sides of the stadium.
Among the Ukrainian support, children held up signs reading: "Stop war."
Once the action got underway, it was the small band of travelling supporters who had far more to cheer about.
In their first competitive match since Ukraine was invaded by Russia, Andriy Yarmolenko, Roman Yaremchuk and Artem Dovbyk scored the goals to set up a clash away to Wales on Sunday for a place at the Qatar World Cup later this year.
Ukraine coach Oleksandr Petrakov dedicated the victory to those fighting in the trenches of his war-torn homeland.
"This victory was not for me or for the team members, it was for our country. This was a huge victory for Ukraine," said Petrakov.
"They did everything for the people they play for, the Ukrainians.
"For the people watching them back home: the armed forces in the trenches, the people working in the hospitals. They say thank you to us and we say thank you to them."
The match had been moved from March, just weeks after the war began, to give Ukraine the chance to fulfil the fixture.
Six of the starting line-up for the visitors are still contracted to Ukrainian clubs and had not played competitively for months.
Manchester City's Oleksandr Zinchenko broke down in tears on the eve of the game as he described how much it would mean to take Ukraine to the World Cup.
But led by the exceptional Zinchenko, they showed no signs of rust or letting the expectation of a nation weigh heavily on their shoulders.
"We played for those who fight in trenches, who fight with their last drop of blood. We played for Ukrainians who suffer every day," added Petrakov.
"We still have the Wales game in front of us. We will do everything to make Ukrainians proud."
Congratulations to Ukraine 🇺🇦
We were opponents for 90 minutes on the pitch tonight, but continue to stand in solidarity with you now.#SCOUKR pic.twitter.com/DvTMtVLIsx
— Scotland National Team (@ScotlandNT) June 1, 2022
Each Ukraine player came out with a flag for the national anthem before their World Cup playoff match vs. Scotland 💛💙 pic.twitter.com/52dxaFZuFm
— B/R Football (@brfootball) June 1, 2022
🏴 Scotland 1-3 Ukraine 🇺🇦https://t.co/hfSEOWvjPI #SCOUKR pic.twitter.com/tRHTrSBW46
— MailOnline Sport (@MailSport) June 1, 2022
Today's Ukraine well-deserved football victory vs Scotland means a lot. It's a morale boost, it's a source of joy in dark times. Soldiers watched it in the trenches, millions of Ukrainians watched it in the bomb shelters while Russian missiles were striking Lviv #SCOUKR
— Olga Tokariuk (@olgatokariuk) June 1, 2022
Amazing.. congrats to Ukraine. Feel for Scotland but nobody can begrudge this nation some joy, especially after such an inspired performance. 👏 pic.twitter.com/RKmTK8Sk4D
— Piers Morgan (@piersmorgan) June 1, 2022
Ukraine's players, coaching staff and fans delivered a passionate rendition of their national anthem ahead of the World Cup play-off semi-final against Scotland at Hampden Park 🇺🇦pic.twitter.com/VHuCjB9EPu
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) June 1, 2022
Ukraine! Incredible, inspirational and now one win away from the World Cup! Memorable performance 💙💛 pic.twitter.com/UNGlB6CP98
— Adriano Del Monte (@adriandelmonte) June 1, 2022
Ukraine snap Scotland's unbeaten run
Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon kept his side in the game early on with stunning saves to deny Viktor Tsygankov and Yarmolenko.
Ukraine's greater poise and technical ability soon told, though, as from Ruslan Malinovskyi's through ball, Yarmolenko's perfect control allowed him to lob the onrushing Gordon to make it 1-0 just after the half-hour mark.
Scotland had been unbeaten in eight games, but rarely threatened a response to keep alive their hopes of reaching a first World Cup since 1998.
"Unfortunately, it’s passed us by," said Scotland captain Andy Robertson. "After a really positive campaign, we’ve let ourselves down tonight."
Within four minutes of the second half, Scotland's mountain to climb got even steeper when Benfica striker Yaremchuk headed in Oleksandr Karavayev's cross to the back post.
The hosts finally flickered into life to appease a frustrated sell-out crowd of 50,000 at Hampden Park in the final quarter.
John McGinn somehow headed wide from point-blank range after Georgiy Bushchan spilled Scott McTominay's cross.
Another Bushchan error then did give Scotland a lifeline 11 minutes from time when Callum McGregor's strike slipped through his grasp and just crossed the line before the defender could clear.
The Scots, though, lacked imagination in their search for an equaliser as Ukraine repelled a flurry of long balls.
Dovbyk then broke clear in the final seconds to put the seal on an emotional win by smashing home at Gordon's near post.
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