World association

Wales top Ukraine national football team in World Cup qualifiers

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When it was over, the Ukrainian players were crying in the rain in Cardiff, their dream of a World Cup place ended with Wales in a tense 1-0 game that turned cruelly to a own goal.

Wales qualified for the World Cup for the first time in 64 years, joining England, the United States and Iran in Group B at November’s tournament in Qatar. Wales will face Team USA on November 21, the opening night of the tournament.

Although that match was played in Cardiff, the home crowd was respectful of Ukraine, a sentimental favorite whose players have family and friends in a war zone. And midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko used the post-match platform to call for unity.

“We have to show people that everyone needs to live in peace and we have to stop war completely because you never know what will happen tomorrow,” he said. says Sky Sports. “Today it is Ukraine, but tomorrow Russian aggression could be with your country. This is why we must be united and we must be together.

Ukraine carried the attack against Wales in the first half but couldn’t do what they wanted in attack. Meanwhile, Gareth Bale, with five goals in his last five appearances for Wales, came out on top after Dan James earned a free-kick on the edge of the goal area. Bale fired a kick which Ukraine captain Andriy Yarmolenko deflected into the net for an own goal in the 34th minute.

“It’s the best result in the history of Welsh football,” said Bale says Sky Sports. ” That says everything. That’s what dreams are made of. I’m speechless because I’m so happy. Words cannot describe what we are feeling right now.

The late difference for Wales was goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey, who made nine saves, including a superb 83rd-minute save against Artem Dovbyk, with Ben Davies blocking the rebound.

“Every challenge they threw at us, we met,” Davies says Sky Sports. “It’s amazing, a dream come true. As a team, we worked so hard for this. We may not have the most talented group, but we give them everything we have.

After the final whistle, a soldier in the crowd sang “Slava Ukraini” – “Glory to Ukraine”.

Players and officials from Wales understood that Ukraine would attract considerable encouragement and had donated 100 tickets to Ukrainian refugees living in Wales.

“Most people want Ukraine to go through,” said Wales manager Robert Page, acknowledging his side were not sentimental favourites. First Minister of Wales Mark Drakeford noted that while he supported the Welsh team, the game gave us “an opportunity to reaffirm our support for Ukraine as they fight the brutal act of war. and unprovoked from Russia”.

The Football Association of Wales has also invited Ukraine’s ambassador to Britain to attend the match, which Ukraine qualified for after an emotional 3-1 win over Scotland on Wednesday. This meeting took place six months after Ukraine’s previous competitive game and after their match against Scotland was postponed from March because Ukraine were unable to field a team following the invasion of Russia.

Several Ukrainian players would have considered joining the country’s army after the February invasion. Oleksandr Petrakov, the team’s 64-year-old coach, tried to enlist but was turned away, and the team was allowed to travel away to prepare for last week’s match as she had hoped to secure the country’s top spot in the World Cup since 2006.

Ukraine resist Scotland push to advance to World Cup qualifier against Wales

Zinchenko held back tears last week as he recounted how his country’s determination to “never give up” inspired the team, whose players entered the pitch with the flag of Ukraine draped over their shoulders. “We want to go to the World Cup, we want to give these incredible emotions to the Ukrainians”, Zinchenko said last week, “because they so deserve it right now.”

Players from both teams had said they would try to treat this as just a game. “If we could snap our fingers and take away the pain Ukraine is going through, we’d do it in a heartbeat,” Page said. “But when it comes to football and the whistle blows [off], we will want to win this game. Business is business.”

President Volodymyr Zelensky has given his approval to relaunch Ukrainian football leagues in August.