CARDIFF, Wales — Ukraine missed out on qualifying for the World Cup on Sunday after the war-disrupted team was beaten 1-0 by Wales in the European playoff final for the FIFA soccer showpiece.
Andriy Yarmolenko inadvertently headed the ball into his own net while trying to clear Wales captain Gareth Bale’s first-half free kick.
While Wales heads to a first World Cup in 64 years — opening against the United States in November — this was an agonizing end to Ukraine’s emotionally charged mission to qualify for Qatar while remaining under invasion by Russia.
The right leg of Wales goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey kept out Viktor Tsyhankov’s poked shot 10 minutes into the second half as Ukraine searched in vain for an equalizer. Artem Dovbyk’s header in the 84th minute looked destined for the corner of the net until it was pushed away by Hennessey’s left hand.
Ukrainians returned to their homeland on the 102nd of the war’s days. On this day, they took refuge from the suffering through watching the game in Cardiff from bars. This included Kyiv, the capital that was hit earlier in day by Russian airstrikes.
With a message in English and Ukrainian on TV screens at the Cardiff City Stadium, there was a specter of war in Wales capital. The home crowd applauded the Ukrainian National Anthem and put aside their rivalries.
Out of the 1,800 seats allocated for Ukraine, 100 tickets were provided free to those who fled Ukraine following the invasion in February. Russia was disqualified from World Cup qualifying.
There were protests by the Russian Football Union on Sunday against the jersey being worn in Wales because Ukraine featured Crimea — which Russia annexed in 2014 — as being part of its map.
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