Ukraine – Farewell to the World Cup
At the end of May, Ukraine went head to head with Scotland with the hope of getting one step closer to qualifying for the World Cup in Qatar later this year. Football bettors from all over the world were backing the war-torn country for a win – and even Scottish football fans found it hard to wish Ukraine out of contention.
Ukraine was just one step away from a place in the 2022 World Cup after managing to beat Scotland in the play-off at Hampden Park. It was a first-class goal from Andriy Yarmolenki that set Ukraine on their road to victory – which was then secured in the second half by a goal from Roman Yaremchuk. This meant that they would then need to go head to head with Wales to book their plane ticket.
A Big Victory Over Scotland
Although the Scots put up a fight – as one would expect, the Ukrainians managed to celebrate an emotional 3-2 victory over the hosts.
In the first half of the game, they were, by far, the much better team and forced two excellent saves from Craig Gordon. However, it was a classy lobbed finish from the boot of Andriy Yarmolenko that put them one step ahead of the competition. Then, early in the second half, their lead was doubled by a header by Roman Yaremchuk.
With ten minutes left in the game, a scrappy goal from Callum McGregor gave the home team a small slither of hope. But, although the home team then piled on forward, this left them exposed at the back and an injury-time goal by Artem Dovbyk slotted right past Gordon and put paid to the hope of a last-minute reprieve.
Next, Ukraine would need to see off the challenge from Wales in order to secure their place at the finals.
Would Ukraine Qualify?
The question was…Do they have what it takes to qualify? Well, this seemed to be all down to the players’ state of mind – of both teams. Against Scotland, the Ukrainian players walked onto the pitch with pride and flags draped across them – and this was enough to push them forward to victory. However, they weren’t there yet – and overcoming another challenge was a huge ask for players who are currently filled with inner turmoil.
Unfortunately, it seemed to be just too much and despite playing for their people, they couldn’t quite perform to the same level. Against Wales, they scored just one goal and that was in their own goal. The game ended 1-0 and the dream was over.
The Best Players
So, who were the main men who got them so far into their journey? Well, if we are to look at their best performance when they faced Scotland, then there were certainly those who stood out compared to others. Karavaev, Matvienko, Mykolenko, Yarmolenko, Malinovsky, Tsygankov and Yaremchuk all put in solid performances and all tried their hardest to throw problems the way of the Welsh team. However, it was Zinchenko who caused the biggest problem of all.
Oleksandr Zinchenko – Man of the Match
The man of the match against Scotland has been one of the key players for the Ukrainian team. Despite playing in an unfamiliar position in the central midfield, he showed everyone what he could do – and proved to the world why Pep Guardiola is such a big fan of his. He took total control of the game, with clever movements and deadly accurate, incisive passing skills. He tore open the Scottish defence again and again. He is becoming a national sporting hero in his country and Ukraine football fans placed a heavy weight of expectation on his shoulders
Conclusion – A Hope Too Far
It would be unfair to say that Scotland was not a good enough opponent. Indeed, Scotland was playing at home and prior to this game, they had enjoyed a run of 12 matches unbeaten, which was their longest run in 44 years. So, Scotland was certainly confident going into the match.
However, the Ukrainian team was a lot stronger than Scotland could handle – and there were some players on the squad that managed to cause the defence too many problems. Not only was there Zinchenko, the man of the match, but Andriy Yarmolenko is also a big name. He scored his 45th goal for Ukraine, which takes him just three behind the country’s all-time leading goal scorer, Andriy Shevchenko.
As such, this was a team that was more than capable of fighting for its place in the finals and Wales certainly didn’t go into the game thinking it would be an easy one. This was about more than just football for Ukraine. They are fighting for everything right now and are used to being the underdogs – and the players desperately wanted to give their people something to cheer for – and the rest of the world would have been right behind them. Football betting fans from all over the world will be sad to see this journey come to an end for them.