Ukrainians a step closer to World Cup as they end Scots’ hopes on emotional night at Hampden


VICTORY FOR the yellow and blue in more ways than one.

That was for the thousands of innocent Ukrainians murdered by an evil Russian regime.


Ukraine moved a step closer to the World Cup with a 3-1 win against ScotlandCredit: Getty
Ukraine will play Wales in Sunday's final


Ukraine will play Wales in Sunday’s finalCredit: Getty

For the helpless families currently sheltered underground as heavy bombing rattles their eardrums and destroys their homes.

For the weary soldiers – many of them footballers by trade – still fighting on the battlefield for freedom and peace.

For those in Kyiv banging drums and supporting their team in a basement bar last night after police forced them inside following an air-raid warning.

For the 3,500 visiting fans who made the trip to Hampden to cheer on a side that represents more than just football, but the hope and pride of a nation at war.

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It was an emotional night at Hampden Park as Ukraine celebrated with fans


It was an emotional night at Hampden Park as Ukraine celebrated with fansCredit: Getty
It was Ukraine's first match since being invaded by Russia


It was Ukraine’s first match since being invaded by RussiaCredit: Getty

For the 60 orphaned children in the stands in Glasgow who would give anything to see their parents by their side just one last time.

For captain Oleksandr Zinchenko, who has been the strong voice and heavy shoulders of his homeland only to break down in tears in the pre-match press conference.

And for their manager Oleksandr Petrakov, who at 64-years-old was turned away from taking arms with the Territorial Defence Force only to be told: “Bring us the World Cup”.

He is one game away from doing just that after Andriy Yarmolenko’s 33rd minute lob stunned the Scots before Roman Yaremchuk doubled quickly after the break.


It was a bad night on the field for Scotland


It was a bad night on the field for ScotlandCredit: EPA
John McGinn was guilty of a horrendous point-blank miss with a header


John McGinn was guilty of a horrendous point-blank miss with a headerCredit: Willie Vass

The latter celebrated by jumping over the hoardings and embracing the delirious visiting fans. It felt as if he was hugging an entire nation, a goal to wipe away their tears.

And as Artem Dovbyk added a third late in injury time, every Ukrainian player sunk to their knees in sheer relief.

It is because of these moments that this match that will go down in the history books. Not just after what happened on the pitch, but the months leading up to it.

Ukraine, running on pure adrenalin with visions of their endangered mothers, fathers, sons and daughters clouding their thoughts, played Scotland off the park from minute one.

For that to happen, having witnessed Russia invade their beloved nation on February 24, being forced to leave their loved ones and flee for Slovenia in late April to attempt some form of training, and without one minute of competitive football before this crucial clash with this unique weight of expectation, is nothing short of a sporting miracle.

In truth, it would have been cruel to see the Tartan Army produce a stunning comeback, even as Callum McGregor grabbed one to add to the drama.

In the end though, Scotland legend and ex-skipper Graeme Souness’ controversial wishes came true.

Andriy Yarmolenko put Ukraine ahead after 33 minutes


Andriy Yarmolenko put Ukraine ahead after 33 minutesCredit: Reuters
Roman Yaremchuk made it 2-0 in the 49th minute


Roman Yaremchuk made it 2-0 in the 49th minuteCredit: Getty

He wanted Ukraine to prevail all along, and even said pre-match: “FIFA should say, it doesn’t matter what happens tonight. This team should be going to the World Cup, simply to keep Ukraine at the forefront of everyone’s mind.”

Steve Clarke’s men had to deal with this sort of mental and moral battering throughout the whole build-up. This time around, it was not just English fans who wanted them to roll over.

Another Scotland idol in Ally McCoist summed it up: “Nobody on this planet wants us to win. In fact, there are probably people on other planets who don’t want us to win.”

The scenes before kick-off were ones of togetherness. Outside the stadium, Scottish and Ukrainian fans joined arm-in-arm to sing songs, captured by global news outlets.

In the visitors’ allocated section, yellow and blue flags and banners donned every seat before Ukraine’s players emerged from the tunnel each with a flag draped over their shoulders.

The home fans were encouraged to sing the Ukraine national anthem using lyrical leaflets. That didn’t materialise, but a standing ovation at the end did.

Hampden is one of the fiercest cauldrons in world football, but for a brief moment it was a place of unity and appreciation of the suffering and pain.

Not many opposing national teams are applauded by the Scots. Just ask the Three Lions.

Callum McGregor pulled one back for Scotland with 11 minutes left


Callum McGregor pulled one back for Scotland with 11 minutes leftCredit: PA
Artem Dovbyk sealed Ukraine's win with the last kick of the game


Artem Dovbyk sealed Ukraine’s win with the last kick of the gameCredit: Reuters

Although, they hardly let them get off lightly, returning to the chorus of boos and jeers as the Ukrainian players gathered in a symbolic huddle just before kick-off.

Quite what was said is anyone’s guess, but it inspired them to pull off the impossible.

Yaremchuk and Yarmolenko were both denied by Craig Gordon in a ferocious start that saw two Ukrainians booked in the opening 10 minutes.

Scotland were nervy, as Clarke’s gamble to play an attacking line-up with both Che Adams and Lyndon Dykes up top backfired.

And the price was paid, Ruslan Malinovskyi’s long ball finding Yarmolenko who outwitted an onrushing Gordon. All that from a player who is currently a free agent.

Clarke made changes at the break, but nothing could derail this yellow and blue locomotive with an entire country desperate for glory.

Oleksandr Karavaev’s 49 minute back-post cross was thudded home by Yaremchuk, and just like that, the tie was done.

Yes, John McGinn missed a sitter, and yes, Scotland got back in it as McGregor’s 79th minute flapped effort crept over the goal-line, but it just was not in the script.

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Off to Cardiff on Sunday for this miraculous, heroic, legendary group of Ukraine players, who were applauded off at Hampden.

Qatar awaits, and no team, or country, is more deserving.

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