Ukraine fans use upside-down Russian flag to trigger Bosnian rivals (VIDEO)
Ugly scenes were averted at the World Cup qualifying meeting between Bosnia and Herzegovina and visitors Ukraine on Tuesday night, after home fans were reportedly enraged by an upside-down Russian flag.
Ukraine secured a vital 2-0 win in the Group D clash in Zenica.
That was enough for Ukraine to confirm a spot in the European play-offs for Qatar 2022 after group rivals Finland fell to defeat in their match against France.
But the celebrations from Ukraine players on the pitch after the match were marred by some of the scenes beforehand at the 15,000-seater Bilino Polje Stadium.
Before the match had kicked off, footage showed enraged Bosnian 'ultras' moving menacingly towards Ukraine supporters in the away section of the stadium.
Police moved in to prevent clashes, while local outlet Klix.ba reported that several fans were removed from the stands amid the scuffles.
Incident na Bilinom Polju, sukob BHFanaticosa i policije pic.twitter.com/Y6mAXMyju7— TV N1 Sarajevo (@N1infoSA) November 16, 2021
Photos of the scenes showed a Ukraine fan waving an upside-down Russian flag bearing the national coat of arms on it, supposedly in a bid to "taunt Vladimir Putin."
But according to Klix, the anger from Bosnian fans may have stemmed from the mistaken belief that the flag was actually one of bitter Balkan rivals Serbia, which resembles the Russian tricolor but with the colors reversed.
In the event, tensions were quelled without widespread violence breaking out.
On the pitch, Ukraine prevailed thanks to second-half goals from Manchester City defender Oleksandr Zinchenko and substitute Artem Dovbyk.
The result, coupled with Finland’s 2-0 home defeat to France, meant Ukraine secured second place in Group D and will be among the 12 teams in the hat for the draw for the play-offs, which take place next Friday.
Bosnia finished in fourth with just one win from their eight matches.
World Cup play-offs ✅𝗦𝗲𝗲𝗱𝗲𝗱🇵🇹 Portugal🏴 Scotland🇮🇹 Italy🇷🇺 Russia🇸🇪 Sweden🏴 Wales𝗨𝗻𝘀𝗲𝗲𝗱𝗲𝗱🇵🇱 Poland🇲🇰 North Macedonia🇹🇷 Turkey🇺🇦 Ukraine🇦🇹 Austria🇨🇿 Czech Republic#WCQpic.twitter.com/kqLszrk3df— European Qualifiers (@EURO2024) November 16, 2021
The play-offs themselves will happen at the end of March, when teams will have to navigate two one-legged matches to progress to the World Cup Finals in Qatar.
Ukraine will be among the second seeds for the draw. Russia will also be among the 12 teams, but in their case will be seeded. Given political tensions, UEFA has already said Russia and Ukraine cannot be drawn together.
Only three of the 12 play-off teams will earn passage to Qatar, with giants such as Italy and Portugal also lurking in the draw.