War-torn Ukraine qualify for Euro 2024 with stunning win

Ukraine, who have been forced to play 'home' matches in neutral venues due to the war with Russia, beat Iceland 2-1

By Reuters

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Ukraine's Mykhaylo Mudryk and Maksym Talovierov celebrate the win. — AFP
Ukraine's Mykhaylo Mudryk and Maksym Talovierov celebrate the win. — AFP

Published: Wed 27 Mar 2024, 2:35 AM

Ukraine's tears of despair turned to joy after qualification for the Euro 2024 was achieved with a dramatic 2-1 victory over Iceland in their playoff final played in a neutral but partisan Wroclaw Stadium in Poland on Tuesday.

Viktor Tsygankov and Mykhailo Mudryk scored second half goals as it was mission accomplished in a campaign where Ukraine have been forced to play ‘home’ fixtures in Slovakia, Czech Republic, Germany and Poland following Russia’s February 2022 invasion of the country that sparked a war which still rages.

Albert Gudmundsson had put Iceland ahead in the first half but they surrendered possession and the initiative as they struggled to contain their opponents for much of the contest.

Ukraine's Volodymyr Brazhko celebrates with fans. — AFP
Ukraine's Volodymyr Brazhko celebrates with fans. — AFP

It is a fourth straight visit to the continental finals for Ukraine who take their place in Group E with Belgium, Slovakia and Romania, who they open their campaign against on June 17.

Chants of "Ukraine, Ukraine" rang around the stadium, the scenes of jubilation and yellow and blue flags waving not far removed from what might be expected if the game was in Kyiv.

Poland is home to a large number of refugees from the war, many of whom will have been in the stadium to witness one of their team’s greatest triumphs given the circumstances.

It makes up for the country missing out on the last World Cup following a playoff defeat by Wales and for the second game running Ukraine had to come from behind to secure victory.

Gudmundsson scored a sublime goal to give Iceland the lead on the half-hour mark as he picked up the ball just outside the box, beat two defenders to make the space and rifled a precise shot into the corner of the net.

The start of the second half was frenetic and Ukraine drew level with a fine equaliser.

Tsygankov was picked out on the right wing and cut inside, drifting into a central position before firing low into the bottom corner of the net with his left foot.

Ukraine keeper Andriy Lunin made a superb stop to deny Jon Thorsteinsson, sprawling to his left to claw away a curling effort from just inside the area, and it was Ukraine who then found the winning moment.

Mudryk scored only his second international goal as he latched onto a cut-back from Georgiy Sudakov and buried the ball into the net, as well as Iceland’s hopes, leaving Ukrainians to celebrate a victory that gives their team a place in Germany.


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