Soldiers watched it in the trenches. Hundreds watched it in bomb shelters. It was a football match.
Ukraine’s 3-1 result in Glasgow against Scotland was crucial. It put them a win away from qualifying for the World Cup this year. It meant more for the Ukrainians though. The game marked the men’s national team’s return to the international stage.
The game barely meant anything in the context of the larger fight the nation has been at. Even as it was being played, reports emerged that Russia had fired eight missiles on Ukraine and that there was an air raid all across the country, Olga Tukuriak, an independent journalist, shared on her Twitter feed that she was watching the game in a basement.
Watching football game Scotland vs Ukraine in a basement because Russia just launched 8 missiles on Ukraine and there is an air raid alert all across the country. A unique experience. Despite everything, Ukraine is winning!
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— Olga Tokariuk (@olgatokariuk) June 1, 2022
‘A unique experience’ as she called it, with Ukraine leading at the Hampden Park while Lviv governor confirmed that several explosions took place in the rural part of the city in the western region of the country.
Inside the stadium in Glasgow, the fans with the blue and yellow flags made sure they were heard and their banners read by the world.
‘Kherson is Ukraine’, read one of them. The southern region of the country was recently occupied by Russia. Minutes before the game, Hennadiy Lahuta, the governer of Kherson Oblast had made an announcement that Ukraine had liberated more than 20 settlements north of the region. The banner was a powerful message from Ukraine to Russia, with love.
— Liveuamap (@Liveuamap) June 1, 2022
The game began with the away fans chanting for the Armed Forces of Ukraine and singing the national anthem in unison with their players, who had the national flag draped around their shoulders ahead of the kick-off.
The Armed Forces of 🇺🇦! pic.twitter.com/Kc6rWOvsOV
— ArmyInform (@armyinformcomua) June 1, 2022
The last time they had played an international game was back in November 2021, a World Cup qualifier against Bosnia and Herzegovina that they won 0-2. Things were a lot different back home then.
Fullback Oleksandr Zinchenko, who has used his voice and reach to call out for support for Ukraine since the invasion by Russia began, couldn’t hold back his tears during the presser ahead of the game in Scotland.
Oleksandr Zinchenko in tears as he describes the emotion of playing for Ukraine against Scotland tomorrow… pic.twitter.com/R1T3F4S4ns
— Mark Ogden (@MarkOgden_) May 31, 2022
“We want to go to the World Cup”, he said while trying his best to contain himself.
“We want to give these incredible emotions to the Ukrainians because they deserve it so very much at this moment.”
Come matchday. Zinchenko gave it all, delivering a player of the match performance while playing in an unfamiliar central midfield position.
Former Scotland and Liverpool star, Graeme Souness had said before the game that FIFA should let Ukraine play the World Cup even if they lose the qualifier semi-final vs Scotland. It never came to that.
Graeme Souness believes that FIFA should send Ukraine to the World Cup, despite what happens in the World Cup qualifier play-off semi-final against Scotland. pic.twitter.com/06b1TZJCub
— Sky Sports News (@SkySportsNews) June 1, 2022
More ball possession, more shots on target, more passes exchanged with higher accuracy, Ukraine led the game in every department than the opposition and could’ve scored more than three on the night,
Danny Makkelie blowing the final whistle sparked celebrations among Ukrainian players and their fans at Hampden Park.
⚡️Ukraine gets closer to qualifying for World Cup after beating Scotland.
Ukraine’s football team won Scotland 3:1 in a play-off semi-final on June 1. The team will face Wales in the play-off final on June 5.
Photo: AMA, Ian MacNicol/Getty Images pic.twitter.com/de5ZqA5z3c
— The Kyiv Independent (@KyivIndependent) June 1, 2022
They are now a good 90 minutes away from playing the World Cup for the first time since 2006.
A game against Wales on Sunday in Cardiff will be the decider. When asked about how big the game is going to be for people back home, Zinchenko said, “Every one of us, we need to show the best performance of our lives.”
I’m Welsh but I’ll be 100% backing Ukraine on Sunday!
— 🇺🇦🏴 Mike Barnes 🏴🇺🇦 (@MikeBarnes1967) June 1, 2022
Safe to say they’ll have people from around the world backing them, some even in Wales.