Scotland v Ukraine: What our writers think will happen at Hampden
Our team of writers try to predict the outcome of Scotland’s World Cup play-off against Ukraine ...
Alan Pattullo: The waiting is almost over. Are we better or less well equipped than we might have been in March, when the tie was originally meant to be played? It’s a moot point. There is the fervent wish that Kieran Tierney was available. We could have done with a fit Nathan Patterson too. Whatever Scotland’s problems, they are nothing compared to a Ukraine side who have several players who have not seen any competitive action for months for obvious reasons. And then there’s the mental impact of what is going on at home. It’s impossible to gauge what impact that might have. They will, though, be extremely motivated. Take that as read. But so will Scotland, roared on by a capacity crowd who are aching to see their side at another World Cup. It’s set to be an emotional, anxious and very possibly long night. Scotland 2 Ukraine 1 (aet).
Andrew Smith: Buckle up might be the best advice to give to any Scotland supporter heading along to Hampden. None of the elements that provide the backdrop to the country’s World Cup play-off semi-final against Ukraine suggest a straightforward encounter. It is difficult to know how the visitors will deal with the onerous responsibility placed on their shoulders to lift a nation ravaged by an horrendous war inflicted on them by Russia. Or how match-sharp the home-based players in their team will be following a month in a Slovenian training campaign, and a set of friendlies, subsequent to the necessary suspension of domestic football since the March invasion. If the Ukraine team can perform to their pre-war capabilities, then they are a side so evenly-matched with Steve Clarke’s men, it would seem to set up a play-off that could easily go the distance. Neither country has lost since last summer’s Euro 2020 finals, while neither are prolific goalscorers. A 1-1 scoreline over 120 minutes that gives way to Scotland edging a penalty shoot-out must be an eminently possible outcome, then.
Stephen Halliday: If timing is indeed everything, there is little doubt that the rescheduled date for the World Cup play-off semi-final at Hampden does not ideally suit either Scotland or Ukraine. But the unavoidable circumstances surrounding the delay do not require repetition as the players of both nations seek to focus on their professional and competitive desire to play at the finals in Qatar later this year. Scotland are bidding for a seventh consecutive victory in qualifying matches under Steve Clarke after finishing their group stage campaign in such impressive fashion last year. Despite losing key defender Kieran Tierney and midfielder Ryan Jack to injury, the Scots are sufficiently well-equipped to extend that winning run. If Clarke’s men can replicate the tempo and intensity of their 2-0 win over Denmark last November, the Tartan Army should be looking forward to a play-off final against Wales in Cardiff on Sunday. Scotland 3, Ukraine 1.
Matthew Elder: In normal circumstances I would be confident that the current Scotland team, unbeaten in eight under Steve Clarke with a full Hampden Park behind them, would overcome any nation ranked outside the world's top 20 in a World Cup play-off. But this is not an ordinary football match. There are complex emotions at play that will undoubtedly manifest themselves on the pitch, in one way or another. Scotland's motivation – the chance to reach their first World Cup in 24 years – is significant enough, but compare it to the Ukrainian cause in the face of the ongoing Russian invasion then things become much more complicated. The game will probably come down to who can channel that passion into producing quality when it counts. Scotland have a strong midfield and a striker in Che Adams who has given the team a new dimension, but the defence remains a concern, particularly without the hugely important Kieran Tierney. I hope I'm wrong, but with the world behind them, I can see Ukraine breaking Scotland hearts on Wednesday. Score prediction: Scotland 1 Ukraine 2.