Ukraine qualifying for the World Cup finals in Qatar would be the feel-good football story of the year. Except in Scotland.
The Full Scottish by Brian P. Dunleavy
Ukraine is in the midst of fighting off the immoral, and criminal, invasion orchestrated by Russian head of state Vladimir Putin. The eyes of the sporting world were on Ukraine’s qualifying campaign, which finally made its stop at Hampden Park after a three-month delay.
That the Scots may have found themselves in the unusual position of not being the charming underdog likely had an effect on their performance, as they fell to the visitors 3-1. The Tartan Army, for its part, wasn’t in the mood for sentimental favorites, as their grumbling could be heard long before Artem Dovbyk killed the game for good deep into stoppage time.
Most left long before the final whistle as well.
Not surprisingly, Celtic’s Callum McGregor was among the few bright spots for the Scots. Captain Andy Roberston appeared to be hungover (perhaps literally) from Liverpool’s cup double celebrations. Lyndon Dykes and Che Adams rarely bothered Ukraine’s back four. And former Celt Ryan Christie had little, if any, impact after coming on as a sub (sound familiar?).
The Scots mustered merely four shots on frame in the must-win match, with 41 percent possession.
The loss ended Scotland’s hopes of qualifying for Qatar. Furthermore it prolonged Ukraine’s dreams of being the footballing equivalent of the silver lining in the cloud. Few outside Wales will be cheering against them on Sunday, when the two clash in Cardiff. Still, it’s unlikely any of the Tartan Army will take solace in football offering a distraction for the war-torn country and its worried diaspora. Questions will be asked, of Steve Clarke and the players, many of whom did not seem up for the challenge Wednesday.
It could be argued that we could all take lessons in bravery from Ukrainians these days. Perhaps none more so than those wearing dark-blue shirts on the pitch at Hampden.