World Cup play-off semi-final: Scotland v Ukraine – preview, team news & stats
|Venue: Hampden Park, Glasgow Date: Wednesday, 1 June Time: 19:45 BST|
|Coverage: Listen to live commentary on Sportsound and follow live text updates on the BBC Sport website & app|
An emotionally charged Hampden will host a World Cup play-off semi-final between Scotland and Ukraine on Wednesday in a game given global attention by Russia’s invasion.
The carrot for the winners is not only national pride, but a place in Sunday’s final against Wales in Cardiff.
Scotland are aiming to reach their first men’s World Cup in 24 years, while Ukraine are hoping to add to their one appearance in 2006.
But their preparations have been disrupted by the ongoing conflict in their homeland, which led to the fixture being delayed from its original date in March.
Given special dispensation to play amid a call-up of many of the country’s men to the army, Oleksandr Petrakov’s squad have spent the last month preparing at a training camp in Brdo, Slovenia.
Friendlies in Germany, Italy and Croatia followed a qualifying campaign in which they were unbeaten in their eight group games, but finished behind holders France courtesy of six of those matches being draws.
Scotland head coach Steve Clarke expects the visitors “will be ready for the game, no worries”.
“They are a very talented team with very talented players,” he added. “They are a good team, but we’re a good team too.”
Indeed, Clarke’s side, who finished second behind Denmark in their qualifying group, are unbeaten in their last eight.
“We’ll play the same way – wanting to get on the front foot – and I think the Ukrainian team will be the same,” he added. “They will want to attack – I’ve watched them and they are a good team going forward.
“The guys know when they turn up that we’re on a good run and they want to keep that going for at least two more matches.”
Scotland are without key defender Kieran Tierney as the Arsenal player recovers from knee surgery, while Rangers midfielder Ryan Jack had to withdraw due to a calf injury.
Nathan Patterson has “run out of time a bit”, having not played since late March as the Everton defender makes his way back from an ankle operation, but may be available should Scotland reach the final.
Ukraine’s home-based players have not been involved in any competitive action since December as the war began during their winter shutdown.
Goalkeeper Andriy Lunin was the last to join the squad after being an unused substitute for Real Madrid in Saturday’s 1-0 victory over Liverpool in the Champions League final.
What they said
Ukraine midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko: “Our mood, I would describe as a fighting mood, because everyone understands what is going on in Ukraine these days, what the situation is like on the ground.
“That’s why I would say our motivation is definitely 100 per cent to win. I’m pretty sure that all in Ukraine who have this opportunity is going to watch us, and we are going to feel this support 100%.
“We can speak a lot but we need to do it on the pitch. We are going to try to make them happy and proud.”
Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon: “Everybody will be feeling the enormity of the occasion, but we are kind of shielded from what’s going on, on the outside, and we prepare like any other game we have done.
“It’s probably impossible for us to actually know the full extent of everything they’re going through, but Ukraine have been in a training camp for over a month now, so we’re not expecting anything but their very best.
“It will be a difficult one, but we’re ready for it. We’re in a good place.”
- This is the first meeting of the sides since October 2007 in a European Championship qualifier, with the Scots winning 3-1 through goals from Kenny Miller, Lee McCulloch and James McFadden.
- Ukraine’s sole victory over Scotland came in October 2006, Oleksandr Kucher and Andriy Shevchenko scoring in Kyiv.
- Since losing consecutive World Cup qualifiers in October/November 2016 against Slovakia and England, Scotland have only lost one of their last 16 such games – a 2-0 defeat to Denmark in September 2021 – and won 11.
- This will be the fifth time Ukraine have competed in a World Cup qualification play-off, failing to progress from any so far: in 1997 v Croatia (lost 3-1), 2001 v Germany (2-5), 2009 v Greece (0-1) and 2013 v France (2-3).
- Scotland have won seven qualifiers during this campaign, their joint-most ever. They also won seven in qualifying for the 1998 tournament, which was the last time they reached the finals.
- This is Scotland’s first World Cup play-off since 1985, when they faced Australia for a place at the 1986 finals. In the first leg, they won 2-0 at Hampden with goals from Davie Cooper and Frank McAvennie and drew 0-0 in Melbourne.
- Both John McGinn and Lyndon Dykes have scored four goals in this campaign for Scotland. The last Scottish player to net more goals in a single campaign was Kevin Gallacher in qualifying for the 1998 finals (six).