Ukraine returns to the grass. Ninety-seven days after Russia began the country's invasion, the national team will face Scotland in the semifinals at Hampden Park of the playoffs for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
While the war continues to crush a population hit by bombing and fighting that has caused many deaths and millions of refugees, in Glasgow, 3,085 kilometers from Kyiv, its footballers, accompanied by 2,220 compatriots in the stadium, will have the objective of getting into the next World Cup. They will first have to win against the 'Tartan Army' at Hampden Park and meet Bale's Wales in Cardiff's Sunday final.
We feel a great responsibility for our fans, our armed forces, and all the people of Ukraine. In our country, young people are fighting and dying in the trenches. You don't have to say anything to the footballers. Morale is through the roof.", highlighted the coach Oleksandr Petrakov in 'DW.' They are ready after, in March, they asked FIFA to postpone their match against Scotland with the approval of all parties involved. One more show of solidarity from a football world that has embraced Ukraine, wearing the yellow and blue of its flag in its stands and on the pitch, since the beginning of the war, at the same time that it expelled Russia and its teams of all tournaments.
"It's not just a game. We have to play with heart and soul. We receive messages from our soldiers who only ask us for one thing: 'please do something you can go for the World Cup.' It is a moment of hope for them and the country," said Shakhtar midfielder Taras Stepanenko. " It's an opportunity for us to draw attention to what is happening in our homeland. We all have the same concerns on our heads, and we know the load on our shoulders. We live for this game," Dinamo Kyiv midfielder Serhiy Sydorchuk said. In 'DW.'
Ukraine is looking to play in the second World Cup in its history -they reached the quarterfinals in Germany in 2006 with Shevchenko as a star- although the preparation has not been easy. With the Ukrainian League suspended since the war began. With several footballers fighting on the front lines, the national team went into exile and concentrated in May in Brdo, the Slovenian national
team headquarters 20 kilometers north of Ljubljana. They all got together to shoot some 'unemployed' players for more than two months. "We have felt at home. They did everything to make us comfortable," explained Petrakov. The 23 Ukrainian club footballers named for this 'stage' in Slovenia worked in a double session. They played three friendlies -victories against Gladbach (1-2) and Empoli (1-3) and a draw (1-1) against Rijeka- while the men who play in the 'Foreign.'