Weeping Oleksandr Zinchenko said Ukraine will struggle to bring the “amazing feelings” of qualifying for the World Cup to their homeland’s people when they face Scotland on Wednesday, and that a return to peace is the top priority, but the national team’s goal is to fulfill the footballer’s dream.
Ukraine will play their first official match since the Russian invasion of the country at Hampden Park, with the award taking home in the Qatar 2022 final against Wales. Football has fizzled out since February 24, but Zinchenko was clearly emotional when asked how he and his teammates had prepared for the match, explaining the impact that successes can have on the pitch.
“Every Ukrainian wants one thing, to end this war,” he said. “I have spoken to people from all over the world and I have also spoken to Ukrainian children who do not understand what is happening. They have only one dream: to end the war.
“When it comes to football, the Ukrainian team has its own dream: we want to go to the World Cup to give people these amazing feelings because the Ukrainians deserve it so much at that moment.” Zinchenko described the “fighting mood” in the team before a match in which Ukraine, whose heart has not played competitive football since last year, was an underdog. “Everyone understands what is going on in Ukraine these days, how the situation is on the ground, and that’s why we have 100% motivation to win,” he said.
Ukraine coach Oleksandr Petrakov spoke about the difficulty of preparing his team for the match originally scheduled for March.
“It is a very difficult task when every player thinks of his fathers, mothers and close relatives in Ukraine,” he said. “But it is clear that every player understands the scale of the task. I am working under a lot of pressure but we are still trying to do our best to achieve the result and our team is fully prepared for tomorrow’s battle.”
While the events on the field may be relentless, the crowds were in solidarity. A group of Ukrainian and Scottish fans will sing the Ukraine national anthem together on the steps of Hampden Park at 6pm, while encouraging local fans to learn the song vocally.