FIFA World Cup: Ukraine falters at the final hurdle, loses 0-1 to Wales, misses bus for the FIFA World Cup 2022 

Tormented by the military invasion by once big brother Russia, Ukraine   finally lost its chance to make it to the FIFA World Cup 2022. It lost its final qualifier to Wales by a solitary goal.

Till a week earlier, Ukraine had a reason to rejoice. Its soccer team had moved a step closer to qualifying for the FIFA World Cup 2022 after a 3-1 win over Scotland in the semi-final of the final round of UEFA qualifying. The postponed game was played at Glasgow’s  Hampden Park where Ukraine won 3-1.

The game played on Wednesday was originally scheduled for March but had to be postponed because of Russian hostilities.

Russia was also suspended and its participation in the Qualification games was suspended. 

Twenty-nine teams have already qualified for the mega event to be hosted by Qatar, with the final European team to be decided over the weekend.

Ukraine will now face Wales in a one-game playoff this Sunday, with the winner advancing to the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar later this year.

The winner will go on to Group B, which also contains England, Iran, and the USA.

Also remaining in the World Cup qualifying bracket are the final three matches of inter-confederational playoffs taking place in Qatar from June 7 to 14.

The winners of UAE/Australia (playing in a semi-final match first)  will play  Peru  for one of the remaining two berths. The last berth will go to winner of the Costa Rica vs. New Zealand  game. 

Winger Andriy Yarmolenko  who otherwise plays for West Ham  gave Ukraine  the  morale boosting lead by  scoring for the visitors in the 33rd minute, before Benfica’s Roman Yaremchuk doubled Ukraine’s lead four minutes into the second half. Scotland’s Callum McGregor reduced the lead to one, but Ukrainian forward Artem Dovbyk scored with the final kick of the match to put the game to bed.

Ukraine last appeared in the World Cup in the 2006 tournament taking held in Germany. That was the first and only time it played in the FIFA world Cup  since gaining independence in 1991.

Before 1991, Ukrainian formed part of the Soviet Union and its players represented the Soviet Union in the FIFA World Cup. The Soviet Union disintegrated in 1991. 

In case Ukraine gets better of Wales and qualifies for the Qatar FIFA World Cup, it will become second team after Canada to play its second World Cup.

It may be pertinent to recall that earlier this year,  after a gap of 36 years, Canada earned a berth  in the FIFA World Cup . Separated by a margin of four goals – scored by Cyle Larin, Tajon Buchanan and Junior Hoilett –  Canada won over Jamaica  to  secure its first World Cup berth since 1986. 

 And in 1986, it was Canada’s first and only appearance in the World Cup.

Interestingly, Canada will be one of three host countries for the 2026 FIFA World Cup where 48 teams will compete for the honours. And normally, the hosts get automatic qualification to compete meaning thereby that Canada will be  playing its second consecutive FIFA World Cup in 2026.

In 2026, 80 matches  will be played in total of which 60 are expected to be staged in the U.S.  while Canada and Mexico would get 10  matches each. They are likely to include seven group-stage games, two games in the round of 32 and one in the round of 16.

Until the completion  of the 2018 FIFA World Cup, twenty-one final tournaments had been held and a total of 79 national teams competing in them. The trophy has been won by eight national teams. Brazil  has won five times. Incidentally, it happens to be the only team to have played in every tournament. The other World Cup winners Include Germany and Italy (four times each), Argentina, France and Uruguay (twice each), and England and Spain (once each). 

The World Cup is the most prestigious association football tournament in the world, as well as the most widely viewed and followed single sporting event. 

Seventeen countries have hosted the World Cup. Brazil, France, Italy, Germany, and Mexico have each hosted twice, while Uruguay, Switzerland, Sweden, Chile, England, Argentina, Spain, the United States, Japan and South Korea (jointly), South Africa, and Russia have each hosted once. Qatar will host the 2022 tournament, and 2026 will be jointly hosted by Canada, the United States, and Mexico, which will give Mexico the distinction of being the first country to host games in three World Cups.

The FIFA committee that approves venues for the World Cup visited Toronto and Edmonton in November last year. A final decision on the host cities for the 2026 will be made on June 16.

These are the only Canadian cities still officially in the running. Edmonton’s Commonwealth Stadium will need renovation as its artificial turf has to make room for the natural grass. Edmonton also needs back up support of the Alberta government. Montreal withdrew its bid last July because of a lack of support at the provincial level while lack of interest from Vancouver never led to a site visit.

In January 2018, a City of Toronto report estimated that it would cost between $30 million and $45 million to host Cup matches, with contributions from all three levels of government. The following month, city council voted 29 to 1 in favour of bidding. Tory said last year that the numbers were not final, but the investment — factoring in support from FIFA and the private sector — was “not insignificant.”