Ukraine to face Wales for World Cup berth, Date with U.S. in November

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Ukraine to face Wales for World Cup berth, Date with U.S. in November originally appeared on NBC Sports Philadelphia

Ukraine defeated Scotland, 3-1, to advance to play Wales on Sunday for a berth in the World Cup, where the winning team will eventually face the United States.

In the Ukrainian men's national team's first match since Russia invaded Ukraine more than three months ago, their victory provides a symbolic boost. Ukraine led the match 2-0 before Scotland could even attempt to catch up. Scotland did score one goal in the midst of the second half, but Ukraine came out stronger and finished the match 3-1. 

During the 2022 World Cup draw, which took place in April, the United States men’s national team was drawn into Group B, along with England, the Islamic Republic of Iran and the European playoff winner. The U.S. opponent is now narrowed down to Ukraine or Wales. 

Who will be playing Wales in the European playoff final?

Scotland and Ukraine put their World Cup potential on the line during the playoff semifinal on Wednesday afternoon, with Ukraine taking home the win.

Considering the recent events taking place in Ukraine, it was inevitable that Ukraine would be rooted as the favorite. Ukrainian players came out draped in their country’s flag:

Andriy Yarmolenko gave Ukraine the lead with a goal in the 33rd minute:

Ukraine’s lead increased to 2-0 at the start of the second half, after Roman Yaremchuk’s goal off of a header:

Scotland’s Callum McGregor scored later in the second half with a long kick that barely crossed the line:

Ukraine's players showed no rust after a six-month hiatus, finishing with one final goal in extra time, upping the score to 3-1, and qualifying them to battle Wales this Sunday.

When was the last time each of these men’s national teams made the World Cup?

The USMNT has never won a FIFA World Cup. Of their 10 appearances, the United States’ best performance was during their first appearance in 1930 when they placed third. The USMNT did not qualify for the 2018 competition, marking the first time they hadn’t qualified since 1986.

The Scotland national football team has participated in eight World Cups, including five consecutive appearances from 1974 to 1990. Their last appearance was in 1998. Scotland has never advanced beyond the group stage.

Ukraine has only appeared in one other FIFA World Cup. At the 2006 World Cup in Germany, Ukraine advanced to the quarterfinals and finished eighth overall. 

Wales has also only appeared in one World Cup, back in 1958. They lost to Brazil in the quarterfinals, with a then-17-year-old Pelé scoring his first-ever international goal.

Why were the games postponed until after the 2022 World Cup draw? 

After Russia invaded Ukraine in late February, the Ukrainian football authorities made a request to FIFA to put off the game originally scheduled for March 24. FIFA conversed with the Scottish Football Association to confirm the request, which actually ended up kickstarting a fundraising game for Ukraine. To support their World Cup playoff opponents, the SFA gave a portion of each ticket sold for that game to UNICEF’s humanitarian response efforts.

On March 8, FIFA rescheduled the Scotland-Ukraine match for June 1.

Why do Scotland and Wales compete as separate countries in the World Cup?

Scotland and Wales – along with England and Northern Ireland – are part of the United Kingdom, yet are able to field their own entries in the World Cup. Those national teams already had a decades-long tradition of facing one another by the time FIFA was formed in 1904. They have continued to count as separate countries in FIFA and UEFA competitions ever since, although the United Kingdom is only allowed one entry in the Olympic Games.

Which game should we be watching next?

The winner of Ukraine and Wales will play at 11:30 a.m. ET on Sunday, June 5. This game will determine the USMNT’s first World Cup opponent.