The Last Ticket in Europe: A World Cup Playoff Preview 

World Cup Playoffs

The remaining qualifying round for the Europe to Qatar World Cup

With five months to go before the World Cup kicks off, the last remaining slot from Europe is yet to be filled by way of Path A in the UEFA Second round qualifying to join Portugal and Poland as the last teams to qualify for Qatar. 

Wales, Scotland, and Ukraine have all lengthy World Cup droughts and shared the same heartaches of missing out over the years. However, with one spot at stake, the worth of qualifying is priceless 

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OVERVIEW 

Originally set to be played at the same day (March 24) as the Welsh win over Austria in the other semifinal, Scotland and Ukraine have different storylines ahead of their June 1 tie in Glasgow. Whoever wins here will book a trip to Cardiff to face Gareth Bale and co four days later for the right to join England, United States, and Iran in group B in the World Cup proper in November. 

Both squads are on the back of a searing unbeaten runs, with the Scots having been more fresher owing to a pair of friendly draws complementing their six-match winning run to finish second in Group F qualifiers.  

Despite a seven-match unbeaten run, Ukraine have not played a full international since November 2021, and they were even hampered by their country’s invasion by Russia in February that stopped all football activities they. With that, they and their two leading clubs (Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk) have embarked on a Europe-wide tour not just to seek humanitarian aid, but also to stay fit for this playoff. 

PREVIOUS ENCOUNTERS 

The pair had already met twice before in the Euro 2008 qualifying, with both teams held their fort at home in Group B. Unfortunately for them, the group also had France and Italy (the 2006 World Cup finalists) who went to Austria and Switzerland instead. 

Key players to watch 

SCOTLAND 

  • Aston Villa’s John McGinn is the top scorer in Steve Clarke’s current squad with 12 goals, four of which came into the World Cup qualifiers (which was the same number of goals scored by QPR striker Lyndon Dykes). 
  • Skipper Andy Robertson will have his hands full on the Ukrainian attacking line which includes some names to be mentioned. 

UKRAINE 

  • The attacking duo of West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko and Benfica’s Roman Yaremchuk should not be separated, given their importance in front of goal. 
  • Also, Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko should not be taken for granted as well, as he can supplement the tandem of Yarmolenko and Yaremchuk as he can contribute either as a wing-back or an attacking midfielder. 

CLOSING 

With the do or die nature of these games, expect both Scotland and Ukraine to go all out, but they are going to be conservative. As the close nature of this match, it might go all the way to a shootout. 

With the do or die nature of these games, expect both Scotland and Ukraine to go all out, but they are going to be conservative. As the close nature of this match, it might go all the way to a shootout. 

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