Scotland vs Ukraine: More than just a FIFA World Cup playoff

Scotland Ukraine World Cup

Hampden Park, Glasgow (Photo Credit: Mark Temnycky)
 

International

Article by: Mark Temnycky
On June 1, Scotland will host Ukraine in a qualification playoff for the 2022 FIFA World Cup. The game will be very emotional and symbolic for Ukraine, and the winner of this match will face Wales on June 5 in the playoff final.

Having last qualified for the World Cup in 1998, the Scottish senior men’s national team will be anxious for this game. Ukraine is a challenging side, and Scotland will need to give it their all to advance to the playoff final. Given the successful season of several Scottish football players, however, the Scottish national team will be ready for this game. Many of Scotland’s senior footballers play for various Scottish and English Premier League sides, and having recently completed their domestic football seasons, they will be ready for this match.

Scottish fans have also been anticipating this game for several months. Given the nature of the qualification draw, Scottish fans will believe that their national team will have a serious possibility of advancing to the playoff final. Over the coming days, supporters have filled the streets of Glasgow, beaming with excitement.

Preparations for Ukraine, however, would be much different. Over the past four months, Ukrainians have been ravaged by Russia’s war. Over 14 million Ukrainians are displaced, and tens of thousands of Ukrainians have died. Numerous cities have been devasted by Putin’s war, and the invasion has forced Ukraine’s footballing body to suspend the sport indefinitely.

As the war rages on, numerous Ukrainian clubs have organized charity tours and club friendlies with some of Europe’s top teams so that they can promote awareness about the Russian invasion. They have also raised a considerable amount of money so that they can provide humanitarian relief to Ukraine.

The playoff match against Scotland, therefore, will be very emotional and symbolic for Ukraine. The qualification game will provide Ukrainians with a sense of pride and optimism in an otherwise difficult period in their history. The war has united Ukrainians throughout the country, and around the world.

This unity can be used to the national team’s advantage as it could help inspire the players as they prepare for this match.

“There will be an incredible atmosphere in Hampden Park,” Ukrainian national team manager Oleksandr Petrakov recently said in an interview with TIME magazine.

Neutral fans will also be rallying behind Ukraine. According to numerous football pundits on ESPN FC, Fox Soccer, The Telegram, and several other media platforms, the world will be supporting Ukraine. Since the start of the war, the international community came swiftly to Ukraine’s defense by sending humanitarian, medical, and military aid. Given what the Ukrainians have endured over the past four months, football fanatics and casual observers will want Ukraine to succeed as the world provides its sympathy for this Eastern European state.

Ukrainian athletes have also utilized their platforms to inform the world about the war. Several of these players have posted videos and statements on social media condemning the Russian invasion. Many of them have donated to Ukraine’s relief efforts.

Most recently, Oleksandr Zinchenko, who plays for Manchester City, dedicated his club’s English Premier League title to Ukraine.

“I would love to bring [the English Premier League] title to Ukraine,” Zinchenko said in an interview after City’s 3-2 dramatic victory over Aston Villa that saw the Sky Blues win the 2021/22 EPL trophy. “They deserve it.”

Overall, the Russian invasion of Ukraine has been devastating. Thousands have perished from the unprovoked war, and millions are displaced. The war has led to a call for action, and the members of Ukraine’s senior men’s national football team are working tirelessly to help their homeland. Their desire to help their country has improved the situation back home, and it has informed people around the world of the atrocities that are being committed by the Russians in Ukraine.

“It’s a very big responsibility,” Petrakov said in his interview with TIME magazine, but he believes his team will be ready.

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