Just days after booking their place in a winner-take-all play-off for one of the last slots of the World Cup, beating Scotland for sure, the pace of the Ukrainian men’s national team seems undeniable. The Ukrainians have won a World Cup, although qualifying for the 2022 edition would have been significantly more special, for obvious geopolitical reasons. All they had to do was lose to Wales, a relatively equal match for them. But luck was not on their side, and Ukraine lost one of the hardest 1-0 matches you have ever seen, dropped on themselves and played unevenly at the worst when they saw the Welshmen shatter their dreams.
Still, Ukraine were the best team that day, managing the tempo, taking double shots and enjoying possession of more than two-thirds. Powerful Alexander Zinchenko, playing far more than the field for Manchester City, was again a great engine for his team, constantly taking the ball from midfield to dangerous areas. Jinchenko is Ukraine’s best player, and although others like Andrei Yarmolenko and Taras Stepanenko have long been, he is a legitimate world-class talent, and Ukrainian fans believed he could bring his team back to the biggest tournament in the world. After Scotland’s victory, where he was Man of the Match, Jinchenko broke down in tears as he talked about the meaning of berths at the World Cup. When his team took to the field on Sunday, they were wrapped in the Ukrainian flag sent by the troops. The whole world knew what victory meant.
But sport is not a game of morality, and Ukraine has never guaranteed a happy ending. They thought there was an opener in the first few minutes, But it was undulating That free kick came too soon after the referee ruled. Gareth Bale scored the only goal of the game in the 33rd minute by blasting a free kick from a dangerous area, a free kick that Yarmolenko bowed to his own keeper. Just as Bell’s goal-scoring moment was fitting, so was Yarmolenko at the other end. These two experienced players were the most distant players in their team and each took part in their fourth and possibly final World Cup qualifier. One of their days is always going to end in despair, though I don’t think anyone expected it to be so brutal.
Yarmolenko redeemed himself about a minute later, as he drew a penalty. In the most controversial moment of the game, Yarmolenko bounced on Joe Allen in the box and pushed the ball away, setting a shot at the goal that was a corner kick for Ukraine, but more importantly, stood in Allen’s way. Definitely kick his leg and get him down into the box. This seems like a fair punishment, and you often see someone rewarded in this kind of game, even though a VAR check confirms the officer’s no-call.
Ukraine then flew to Wales for the last 50 minutes of the game. They had nine shots on Wayne Hennessy’s goal, some of which were really bad shots. But Burnley Keeper It was his best game ever For the national team, and he has made several brilliant saves to keep his team ahead. He thwarted a beautiful move by Ukraine in the 55th minute with a great kick save, then got the moment of the match in the 82nd match. After regaining possession from a scramble in midfield, the Ukrainians worked it out to Vitali Mikolenko on the left. He sent a strong cross, which Artem Dobbik met at his top to run a powerful header to the left of Hennessy. But the Welsh defender made a perfect save, extending his left paw to bat at guaranteed goal away strength.
Ukraine had a few more decent chances, though Wales also hit the post and forced themselves to make at least one great save. Still, I think the loss could have been easily taken if it hadn’t been so close, or if Ukraine hadn’t landed on Welsh soil and beaten the home team squarely, but Wales was never going to roll over because this game was a huge bet for them too. Wales have now qualified for the World Cup for the second time, and their first in 64 years. It will be their moment, the culmination of Gareth Bale’s 16-year journey with the national team and the chance to beat their arch-rivals England in the group stage. But the dimension of the moment in Ukraine was even more significant, and a story that could have been won now has an anticlimactic ending. The bitterness of this loss is completely unknown to most fans. One thing is for your team to take a big lead, or be annoyed by a relative minnow or even miss a backbreaking penalty to give Italy the European Championship; These are all results without any real burden outside of sports. As bad as losing a highly winning game to secure a place in the World Cup during the process of ruthlessly connecting one-third of your country. There is no silver lining, no chance of liberation, just pain.