Psychological pressure can be exhilarating or crushing. There is no evidence that the anguish and pain that war produces in the minds of athletes who suffer from it helps them to compete better. Everything indicates that it happens the other way around. But Andriy Yarmolenko did not show an iota of anxiety when Malinovsky sent that ball through 40 meters of Scottish air. He ran loosely behind Cooper, controlled the ball with the toe of his left boot, almost without looking at it, and finished with a lob over goalkeeper Craig Gordon.
Gordon, Liam Cooper, McTominay, Hanley, Gilmour (Armstrong, min. 67), A. Robertson, McGregor, Aaron Hickey, Che Adams, Dykes (Ryan Christie, min. 45) and McGinn
Bushchan, Karavaev, Illia Zabarnyi, Matvyenko, Mykolenko, Tsygankov (Mykhailo Mudryk, min. 71), Zinchenko, Yarmolenko (Zubkov, min. 78), Malinovsky (Shaparenko, min. 71), Stepanenko (S. Sydorchuk, min. 93 ) and Yaremchuk (Dovbyk, min. 77)
goals 0-1 min. 32: Yarmolenko. 0-2 min. 48: Yaremchuk. 1-2 minutes 78: McGregor. 1-3 min. 94: Dovbyk.
Yellow cards Yaremchuk (min. 4), Malinovsky (min. 10), Dykes (min. 43), McGinn (min. 58) and Shaparenko (min. 83)
The 0-1, half an hour into the match, elegantly sealed the overwhelming dominance of the Ukraine team over Scotland. As if the weight of the war fell on the local team, the team of men who defended nothing more than a ticket, inhibited against a rival who played much more than access to the World Cup.
The invasion of Ukraine by the Russian army on February 24 paralyzed the World Cup qualifying play-off for the country under attack. The matches were postponed and what was once a sports administrative process became for Ukrainian soccer players a publicity crusade to remind the world that a war of national liberation was being waged in their country. Coach Oleksandr Petrakov did not stop haranguing the players, warning them that his countrymen were giving their lives in Ukraine. The soldiers from the front asked them for urgent football victories. Chairman Volodymyr Zelenskiy encouraged them to complete Britain’s dual mission – defeat Scotland in Glasgow and Wales in Cardiff – and thus qualify for the World Cup. An essential epic to help win the bloody war that was being waged at home.
The atmosphere that greeted them in Hampden Park was warlike and festive at the same time. The stands were covered with blue and yellow flags and the crowd sang with equal enthusiasm flowers of scotland who attended the anthem of the Slavic country in awe. Wrapped in flags, the visiting players sang the verses out of place and then began to play football as if the traffic was natural.
Stepanenko, Zinchenko, Yarmolenko and Tsygankov, the Ukrainian midfielder, took charge of the situation as if everything took place in the Olympic Stadium in kyiv. The first chance went to Tsygankov, who tested Gordon with a shot into the corner; Yarmolenko had the second, and was about to leak the shot through the armpit of the resistant goalkeeper. Overwhelmed on all fronts, the Scots reacted with balls and crosses to the pot, only to return the ball to rival territory. Ukraine handled the game with more than just bravery. Between Zinchenko and Yarmolenko they showed that funny associations are not at odds with despair.
It was after the break that Zabamyi, Dinamo’s centre-back, advanced down the middle of the field as if he were running through a private park. He carried the ball close to his foot for 50 meters, gave it to Yarmolenko, and the seven of West Ham unleashed chaos. The cross to the far post was easily headed by Yaremchuk to McTomminay’s perplexity.
Only 0-2 pushed the Scots back into a competition they had passed through like shadows. They responded in the only way they were capable: with shots from distance and crosses at will. Eventually McGregor kicked the ball across the Ukraine goal line, and the game took on sudden excitement. The adrenaline affected the public and the Scottish players more than the Ukrainians, serenely dominating their first test until the final 1-3. On Sunday, Gareth Bale’s Wales awaits them in Cardiff.