Ukraine’s World Cup dreams crushed by Wales victory – POLITICO

CARDIFF – Ukraine’s football team lost 1-0 to Wales on Sunday, shattering the war-torn country’s hopes of making it to the World Cup in Qatar and disappointing fans who said following the team would give the country distraction and joy during the Russian invasion.

The game about Cardiff City Stadium was the final game to determine Europe’s remaining spot in the tournament this winter, and was only Ukraine’s second competitive game since the invasion began on February 24. The results mean Wales will head to the World Cup for the first time in 64 years, joined by Including England, the US and Iran.

The winning goal for Wales – an own goal by Ukrainian winger Andriy Yarmolenko, who headed a Gareth Bale free kick into his team’s own net – was especially devastating for Ukrainian fans.

“We don’t deserve this,” said Petro, a Ukrainian fan who had traveled from York to watch the match with his mother. “At the final whistle, it was quiet for a while. Ukrainian people have been through so much, and now this.”

A group of dejected supporters, draped in Ukrainian flags outside the stadium, said they were full-time disappointed with the result.

‘We are sad. We are very sad,” said one supporter who traveled from London for the match.

Ukrainian ace Oleksandr Zinchenko, who also plays for Manchester City in the Premier League, had said before the game that his “dream” was to reach the World Cup final. He said after the game that he felt sorry for the supporters who had followed the team.

“I also feel sorry for those and supporters from around the world who have supported us. You can’t blame the players, they all gave it their all on the pitch,” he told Sky Sports. “But that’s football, it can happen.

“Everyone should live in peace,” he added. “We have to stop the war completely, you never know what will happen. Today it is Ukraine, but tomorrow may be Russian aggression against your country.”

Some 2,000 Ukrainian fans made the trip to Cardiff for the match after their team defeated Scotland in a decisive 3-1 win in Wednesday’s play-off semi-final.

Two Ukrainian fans, Yulia and Ana, 25 and 24 respectively, said Sunday’s game was their first-ever football game.

“We are just happy to be here and support Ukraine in any case. Win or not doesn’t matter. We’re just happy to be here and feel the atmosphere,” said Yulia.

The couple, who moved to Cardiff from Kharkiv a week ago, said they appreciated the support from Welsh fans.

“We were very impressed with the support from Wales. I was crying,’ said Yulia.

Meanwhile, Wales fans said they were overjoyed to see their first World Cup since 1958.

“I’m ecstatic, to be honest,” said Rhys Morgan, 29, of Llanelli in South Wales. ‘We are such a small country. To be there with the big boys is great.”

He added: “Especially this weekend with the [queen’s Platinum Jubilee celebration]we are often completely ignored as a nation in the little old Wales of the UK who are a footnote to the government in Westminster… it’s really special.”

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