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

The Ukrainian players entered the field draped in yellow and blue flags before an emotionally charged national anthem, which was applauded from all sides of the stadium.
The Ukrainian players entered the field draped in yellow and blue flags before an emotionally charged national anthem, which was applauded from all sides of the stadium. (Reuters)

Ukraine manager Oleksandr Petrakov has dedicated his side's 3-1 win over Scotland to reach a World Cup play-off final to those fighting in the trenches of his conflict-torn homeland.

In their first competitive match since Ukraine was attacked 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 in Qatar later this year.

"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 conflict 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.

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Emotional scenes

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.

The Ukrainian players entered the field draped in yellow and blue flags before an emotionally charged national anthem which was applauded from all sides of the stadium.

Among the Ukrainian support, children held up signs saying "stop war". Once the action got underway, it was the small band of travelling supporters who had far more to cheer.

Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon kept his side in the game early on with stunning saves to deny Viktor Tsygankov and Yarmolenko. But Ukraine's greater poise and technical ability soon told.

"Unfortunately, it’s passed us by," said Scotland captain Andy Robertson. "After a really positive campaign, we’ve let ourselves down tonight."

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Source: AFP