Artem Dovbyk’s header in the 121st minute sent Ukraine through to a Euro 2020 quarter-final clash with England as they beat Sweden 2-1 after extra time in Glasgow on Tuesday.
Ukraine squeezed through to the last 16 despite taking just three points in the group stage, qualifying in part because Sweden beat Poland to top Group E ahead of Spain.
But Andriy Shevchenko’s side were determined to show they deserved their place in the knockout phase as Oleksandr Zinchenko fired them into an early lead.
Emil Forsberg’s deflected strike brought Sweden level before half-time and the RB Leipzig midfielder twice hit the woodwork in the second half.
However, a red card for Marcus Danielson nine minutes into extra time left Sweden hanging on for penalties until Dovbyk latched onto Zinchenko’s inviting cross to spark wild scenes of celebration among the small band of Ukrainian fans at Hampden Park.
“With this performance and commitment, our team has deserved the love of the whole country,” said Shevchenko, who in the last eight will return to Italy where he enjoyed the best years of his stellar playing career with AC Milan.
Shevchenko said before the game his side had already achieved their objective by making it through the group.
But the former Ballon d’Or winner got the reaction he desired after a disappointing 1-0 defeat to Austria in their final group game with a fast start.
Andriy Yarmolenko has been his country’s driving force all tournament, scoring or assisting in all but two of their six goals.
The West Ham United winger’s teasing cross with the outside of his left foot fell kindly for Zinchenko on 27 minutes and the Manchester City man drilled in a low shot that had too much power for Olsen.
Zinchenko will come up against a number of his club teammates in the quarter-final, and he urged Ukraine to believe they can make history by reaching the semi-finals of a major tournament for the first time as an independent nation.
“I know a lot of those players personally,” said Zinchenko. “They have a really good set of players, their substitutes bench probably cost the same as three Ukrainian teams.
“This should not scare us, this should motivate us. I sense myself that everything is possible in this life and we will try everything for it.”