As sporting images go we will wait a while to beat the sight of the Ukraine team, kitted out in their vivid yellow and blue, lost in the embrace of their supporters away in one small corner of Hampden Park following the scoring of their second goal on this remarkable evening.
It was hard to believe these players were here in Scotland at all. That they were about to win this game after playing no football together since December was another thing entirely.
But when the emotion and wider context of this game was stripped away, one simple football fact shone brightly. Ukraine will face Wales in Cardiff on Sunday with a shot at becoming the most popular World Cup finalists of all time because they were the better team by an extraordinary distance.
Ukraine are through to the World Cup play-off final after a 3-1 win over Scotland
The war-ravaged nation have started a fairytale journey towards Qatar and were the better side from the first minute in Glasgow
Artem Dovbyk put the cherry on the cake with a third goal as Ukraine set up a clash with Wales
Ukraine players clap their raucous support at full time with the team one game from Qatar
Scotland were off the pace, wasteful and seemed to freeze under the pressure of the occasion
It was quite the showpiece before kick-off, with Ukraine players arriving on the Hampden Park pitch draped in their country’s flag
MATCH FACTS AND PLAYER RATINGS
SCOTLAND (3-4-1-2): Gordon 8; McTominay 5, Hanley 5, Cooper 5 (Hendry 67min, 6); Hickey 6, Gilmour 5.5 (S Armstrong 67, 6), McGregor 6, Robertson 6.5; McGinn 5; Adams 5, Dykes 5 (Christie 46, 6).
Scorer: McGregor 79.
Booked: Dykes, McGinn.
Manager: Steve Clarke 5.
UKRAINE (4-1-4-1): Bushchan 6; Karavaev 6.5, Zabarnyi 6.5, Matviyenko 7, Mykolenko 7; Stepanenko 7 (Sydorchuk 90+3); Yarmolenko 8 (Zubkov 77), Malinovskyi 7 (Shaparenko 71, 6), Zinchenko 7.5, Tsygankov 7 (Mudryk 71, 6); Yaremchuk 8.5 (Dovbyk 77, 6).
Scorers: Yarmolenko 33, Yaremchuk 49, Dovbyk 90+5.
Booked: Yaremchuk, Malinovskyi, Shaparenko.
Manager: Oleksandr Petrakov 8.
Referee: Danny Makkelie (Hol) 8.
This was a game lent late drama as the visiting team understandably tired and Scotland found impetus through a goal from Callum McGregor.
But for the majority of this game, Ukraine were superior to Scotland by a margin nobody could really have expected. They controlled the possession and territory to such a degree that Steve Clarke’s team didn’t threaten their goal until an hour had been played. By that time Ukraine were two goals up.
Scotland were, for the large part, absolutely dreadful. If this was a big night for Ukraine then it was for Scots too and they froze. When the Ukraine substitute Artem Dovbyk broke away to score simply with the very last kick of the night, he restored a winning margin that reflected the difference between the teams at the end of a game that reminded us just what sporting combat can do.
For the Ukrainian players, this was an occasion that enabled them to forget, just for a while, the realities of their nation’s changed circumstances. After weeks locked away in their training camp in Slovenia – safe from war but physically and emotionally detached from the world to which they were previously accustomed – they played with freedom.
Scotland, on the other hand, seemed diminished. The tag of favourites clearly did not suit them and it will be a while before players like the normally infallible John McGinn can forget the horror of such failure. McGinn was not the worst here but he did somehow miss an open goal from six yards.
Hampden had extended due friendship to the several thousand Ukraine supporters inside this great amphitheatre at the start of the game. There were Ukrainian flags carried by some home fans.
Andriy Yarmolenko was sensational and made up for an early miss by lobbing in the opener
The former West Ham star was central to everything Ukraine offered in attack and Scotland could not live with him
Roman Yaremchuk got on the end of a brilliant Yarmolenko cross to steer in the second goal
But when the football started, the Scots were on the back foot and, for the large part, it was where they remained. Clarke’s team played aimlessly direct football while Ukraine manoeuvred themselves in to good positions by way of intelligent passing and numerical overloads.
Craig Gordon, the 39-year-old Scotland goalkeeper, was soon busy, touching a first time half volley from Viktor Tsygankov over the bar after the Ukraine player had run freely on to a Oleksandr Karavaev cross from the right.
The Hearts goalkeeper would have expected to make that one. The ball was struck well but was rising and required just a faint touch. In the 17th minute, though, Gordon produced something special to deny West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko from point blank range.
Played onside by a dozing defender in blue as the ball arrived, Yarmolenko turned and shot low to Gordon’s right but the goalkeeper got a hand to the ball to stall its momentum and was then able to stand, turn and drop on it as opponents closed in.
The Benfica forward wheels away after putting Ukraine in the driving seat at Hampden Park
Yaremchuk is swamped by his team-mates as Ukraine fans go wild in the stands behind them
Ukraine were backed by 3,000 travelling fans and they made their voices heard throughout
The pattern of the game was set already and it shone bright yellow. In the 32nd minute the first goal arrived.
A long ball from the centre half position found Yarmolenko angling a run from the right and when he applied a stunning first touch to the dropping ball he was able to lift it over Gordon and in to the goal.
Gordon had possibly dashed a little too far off his line but it was hard to be critical. He had pretty much kept his team in the game up until that point.
Scotland, booed off at half-time, simply had to improve but they could not. And when another cross from Karavaev on the right found Roman Yaremchuk dropping off his marker at the far post, his climb above Scott McTominay and Aaron Hickey was high enough to facilitate a header directed down and back across Gordon and in to the far corner.
John McGinn was guilty of a horrendous miss as he somehow nodded his header wide
Moments later Callum McGregor rifled the ball at Ukraine keeper Buschchan – and it bounced over the line after he flapped at the shot
With Scotland pushing everyone forwards, Ukraine were allowed to counter and Dovbyk was given the simple task of slotting in their third goal
Scotland looked lost and they were. Briefly home voices raised in anticipation when McGregor charged down a clearance from Ukraine goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan. But the ball bounced wide and when Bushchan fumbled a McTominay cross on to McGinn’s head soon after, he somehow directed the chance past the post.
Ukraine did tire. They were always likely to. Bushchan was becoming increasingly erratic and this combination offered Scotland late hope. A poor punch and then a fumble allowed McGregor’s bouncing shot to scrape over the line with 12 minutes left and briefly a comeback was on the cards. Finally Hampden found its spirit.
But this was a game decided by quality, not noise. Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko was magnificent in central midfield. The two goal scorers were the epitome of menacing elegance.
Buoyed by this incredible night, Ukraine will travel to Wales for Sunday’s final eliminator with more than just hope carrying them forwards towards Qatar.
Man City star Oleksandr Zinchenko – who was fantastic on the night – celebrates at full time
Ukraine will play Wales in Cardiff on Sunday, with the country on a high after a superb display
RELIVE ALL THE ACTION ON THE NIGHT AT HAMPDEN PARK WITH OUR LIVE RUNNER FROM SPORTSMAIL’S OLI GAMP