Gone is the dream of the World Cup in Qatar: Ukraine’s footballers unhappily lose the decisive game for the last European ticket. Instead, Wales are celebrating their first World Cup participation in 64 years.
Ukraine missed out on the World Cup with an unfortunate defeat. Ironically, thanks to an own goal, coach Oleksandr Petrakow’s team lost the play-off final against Wales 0-1 (0-1) in Cardiff on Sunday. Andriy Jarmolenko headed a free-kick from Wales’ captain Gareth Bale into his own goal in the 34th minute, shattering the dream of a second World Cup appearance after 2006. In the persistent rain in Cardiff, the Britons instead got the last place in Europe at the championship on 21. November to December 18 in Qatar. This is Wales’ second World Cup appearance since 1958.
Because of Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, the playoff games had been moved from March to early June. In the semi-finals, Ukraine surprisingly won 3-1 against Scotland in Glasgow.
Ukraine’s own goal sparks celebrations for Wales
With their national flags slung over their shoulders, the Ukrainian players took to the pitch for their second competitive game since the start of the war and then fervently sang along to the anthem. Cheered on by an estimated 2000 of their own supporters in the packed stands of the Cardiff City Stadium, the guests then started the game energetically.
“It will be a huge game for us. Everyone understands the situation. Each of us has to show the best performance in our life and then we will see what will happen,” Manchester City professional Oleksandr Zinchenko said before the emotional game. His free-kick landed in the Welsh goal in the 3rd minute, but the goal was disallowed because referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz (Spain) hadn’t released the ball. Roman Yaremchuk had the first good chance to take the lead, but his low shot was parried by Wayne Hennessy in the Welsh goal.
The hosts, who lost 2-1 to Poland at the start of the Nations League, struggled against the agile and self-confident Ukrainians after the semi-final success, despite Bale’s return. But out of nowhere Wales scored: Ukraine captain Yarmolenko headed a Bale free-kick into his own goal, past goalkeeper Georgi Buschchan.
The Ukrainians showed heart and passion in the second half as well, repeatedly putting the hosts on the defensive. But as with a few chances before the break, Viktor Tsygankow failed in the 56th minute from close range at Hennessy. The visitors were lucky in the 74th minute when substitute Brennan Johnson hit the post. Ten minutes later, Wales Keeper saved the lead from Vitali Mykolenko’s shot.