Watch the playoff semi-final between Scotland and Ukraine on TV 2 Sport Premium and Play from 20.15.
There has been little focus on sports in Ukraine in recent months.
On Wednesday night, the Ukrainian football masters run out to Hampden Park in search of a ticket to the playoff final for games in the World Cup in Qatar in November.
– Every Ukrainian has a dream: To end the war. I talk to young Ukrainian children who do not understand anything. But one thing they say: “I have a dream that the war is over”, says a very emotional Oleksandr Zintshenko at the press conference before the match.
– We have a dream of qualifying for the World Cup and give Ukrainians something to enjoy, because they deserve it in this difficult time, the Manchester City defender continues.
The 25-year-old urges Europe to stand united against Russia.
– Things happening in Ukraine now are not acceptable. There’s something I can not describe. Many countries may not understand it: today it is Ukraine, but tomorrow it may be you. We must stand together.
Ukrainians in Norway: – The fight means a lot
Ukrainian Eugen Pylypenko (43) lives in Norway. He says the fight will be a welcome break from war and misery.
– Since many of the Ukrainians are at war, this will be positive news no matter how the fight goes. The Ukrainians get something other than war to think about.
He has lived in Norway for 15 years. He has helped Ukrainians to settle in this country through the Ukrainian association in Norway.
– If we do not win the war, we will hopefully win the football match, he says.
– What does the struggle mean for the Ukrainian people?
– It means a lot. Those who have the opportunity will follow. And if they win – it offers more optimism going forward.
– Gets tough for them
Several months have passed since Russia invaded Ukraine on February 24.
Originally, the match against Scotland was to be played back at the end of March. This was not possible due to the entry of war into Ukraine.
– I think the players have their background and situation to think about. It’s going to be tough for them. But they play for a large audience, says Eugen Pylypenko.
Ukrainian Liza (8) fled to Norway from the bombing: – A small miracle
Base in Slovenia
The Ukrainian series officially ended in late April, with the two big teams Shaktar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv fighting for the title – a series gold that will never be awarded.
The national team players from the domestic league were then given special permission to leave Ukraine to improve until the playoff finals.
They have done so in Slovenian Brdo, a little over half an hour away from the capital Ljubljana.
They have been there since the beginning of May, and sparred against clubs from Germany, Croatia and Italy. The Ukrainian national team beat, among others, Borussia Mönchengladbach 2-1, writes the BBC.
Later, Ukrainian players from European clubs, such as Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zintchenko and Everton full-back Vitaliy Mykolenko, also joined the national team.
Escape from the war – now he has found joy in Bergen
Desperate for Qatar trip
Opponent Scotland notices that more want Ukraine further.
– For us, it is impossible to imagine what they (Ukraine players) are going through, says Scotland goalkeeper Craig Gordon at a press conference the day before the match starts.
– Probably the whole world wants Ukraine to win. I would even like Ukraine victory if they played against someone else. Unfortunately, they play against my country, and we must stand in their way, Liverpool defender Andy Robertson has told BBC Scotland.
– I’m desperate to go to Qatar. The same is the support apparatus, and most importantly, the players are desperate to take their country to a new World Cup, says national team manager Steve Clarke.
The last time Scotland was in a World Cup group stage: 1998 – 24 years ago. Then the Scots met Norway in the group stage. The match ended 1-1, with striker Håvard Flo scoring Norway’s goal.
Ukraine last participated in 2006.
The winner will face Wales in the final match to land a possible World Cup participation.