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Scotland 1-3 Ukraine: How visitors gave sparkle of joy to troubled nation in World Cup play-off


By Martin Watt

(BBC Sport) – They strode purposefully into the Hampden sunshine with Ukraine flags draped over their shoulders, the hopes of a traumatised nation in their hearts, and the eyes of the world upon them.

Wearing bright yellow, Ukraine’s players brought a sparkle of joy back to their war-scarred country as they poured their soul into achieving an epic victory and maybe, just maybe, claiming an unlikely place at the World Cup finals.

Gruelling, intense and – despite having to cling on a little on in the closing stages as Scotland rallied – fully merited.

Fuelled by emotion, it seemed Ukraine took on superhuman powers at times. Andriy Yarmolenko has never been known for his sprinting abilities but blazed past a dawdling Scotland defence to dispatch a precise lob over Craig Gordon.

It sent the 3,500 visiting supporters into raptures and his side on their way to the World Cup play-off final against Wales in Cardiff on Sunday.

When he made it back to the halfway line, Yarmolenko sank to his knees and pointed to the heavens. Behind him, those Ukraine fans were a sea of limbs as months of pain, anguish, worry, fear and frustration came spilling out.

By full-time, with Artem Dovbyk’s breakaway goal having finally made sure of victory, the visiting support and team celebrated as one. Those fans were not for budging, long after Scotland fans trudged out having sportingly applauded the victors.

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