Soccer-Scotland close in on Women's World Cup playoff spot with 4-0 Ukraine win


Soccer Football - Women's World Cup - UEFA Qualifiers - Ukraine v Scotland - Stadion Stal, Rzeszow, Poland - June 24, 2022 Scotland's Erin Cuthbert in action with Ukraine's Viktoriya Hiryn REUTERS/Aleksandra Szmigiel

RZESZOW, Poland (Reuters) - Scotland beat Ukraine 4-0 in their 2023 Women's World Cup qualifier on Friday, taking a big step towards sealing a playoff spot in what was the first match the Ukrainian national team has played since the Russian invasion.

Ukraine could feel home in Poland's southeastern city of Rzeszow which - located about 100km from the Ukrainian border - has been a focal point for people fleeing the war-torn country and many of the refugees gathered to cheer on their team.

This, however, did not help Lluis Cortes' side to avoid a sore defeat in their return to action in a game which was originally scheduled for April, as forward Caroline Weir put Scotland ahead in the ninth minute from the penalty spot.

Midfielder Erin Cuthbert made it 2-0 in the 17th minute after receiving a back heel cross from Martha Thomas who joined the scoresheet minutes later. Thomas then found the back of the net once more to effectively seal the tie before halftime.

Group B leaders Spain have already qualified for next year's tournament with 18 points from six games, while Scotland are five points back and occupy the playoff spot but face competition from third-place Hungary who are on nine points.

Ukraine, fourth on four points, are out of that race despite having two games in hand due to the postponement of their matches this year.

The World Cup will be held next year in Australia and New Zealand, starting on July 20.

(Reporting by Anita Kobylinska in Gdansk; Editing by Christian Radnedge)

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