Representing an embattled nation living under assault, Ukraine’s men’s national team arrived in Scotland for Wednesday’s World Cup qualifier fighting a lengthy domestic league layoff, underdog odds (+240), and a passionate home crowd.
Now, after a cathartic, emotional 3-1 victory, the Ukrainians are just one win from featuring in the globe’s biggest sporting event for only the second time.
Due to the ongoing Russian invasion, the Ukrainian Premier League suspended its season in February, then terminated it in April. Many of Ukraine’s players thus had limited playing time over recent months — but their countrymen on higher-profile European teams picked up much of the slack in Glasgow.
- Longtime midfielder Andriy Yarmolenko kicked off the scoring — he’s making around $126,000 per week with West Ham United.
- The next goal came from Roman Yaremchuk, whom Benfica reportedly paid $18.7M to acquire in July 2021.
- Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko added an assist on the stoppage-time dagger; he makes around $25,000 per week.
Aside from the morale boost a World Cup bid would provide for a country under siege, this team also has some very soccer-specific motivation.
Since joining FIFA in 1992, Ukraine has qualified just once, falling to eventual champions Italy in the 2006 quarterfinals.
To keep their dream run alive, Ukraine will have to go through Wales in Cardiff on Sunday. The Blue and Yellow are very slight underdogs (-110) to advance.