Yaremchuk completes comeback for Ukraine in victory against Slovakia

Roman Yaremchuk is a big man but one blessed with a remarkable deftness of touch. Mykola Shaparenko’s ball into him after 80 minutes seemed neither one thing nor the other; too high to take in his stride, too low to head. But Yaremchuk cushioned it with an upward thrust of his leg and, in one movement, nudged it past Martin Dubravka. The shot barely had enough pace to get over the line, but it had enough, and Ukraine had a win that at half-time had seemed very unlikely.

The comeback means that both Ukraine and Slovakia will qualify for the last 16 if they win their final group games next week. But bright and engaging as the game was, it was inevitably overshadowed by the political context. Even beyond Kylian Mbappé and Marcus Thuram and their explicit appeals against the Rassemblement National in France, politics has lingered just below the surface of this tournament.

There were the disgraceful chants directed at Serbs by Albania and Croatia fans in Hamburg; the Kosovan journalist banned for making an eagle gesture at Serbian fans who were abusing him; English and Serbian fans booing each others’ anthems at least in part as a consequence of the Nato bombing of Belgrade; Hungarian fans with their irredentist power ballads and songs now associated with the German far right; Austrian fans booing la Marseillaise in recognition that it was originally the war song of the Army of the Rhine in the War of the First Coalition in 1792 … good luck to the Spain goalkeeper Unai Simón and his suggestion everybody just stick to football.

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