Zinchenko and Ukraine are aiming for much more than a qualification

Zinchenko and Ukraine are aiming for much more than a qualification

90 minutes from Qatar World Cup: Ukraine led by Oleksandr Zinchenko has the opportunity to validate his qualification on Sunday (18:00) in Cardiff against Wales, a feat synonymous with a breath of fresh air for a traumatized people by the Russian invasion.

By beating Scotland in the semi-finals of the European Championships (3-1) on Wednesday, the Blues and Yellows have already completed halfway, playing each game “like a final”, according to Zinchenko, who has become the leading figure in the team.

On Sunday, the Manchester City player, who is able to play both defensively and in midfield, added, “we will have to deliver the best performance of our lives”.

The former Chakhtar Donetsk player, who had to flee the war in the Donbass in 2014 and signed a contract with Russian club FC Ufa before being recruited by the “Citizens” the following year, is now talking about football with words borrowed from the combat register.

“We all understand that the game against Wales will not be a matter of fitness or tactics, but of survival. Everyone is going to fight for it and give it their all,” said the 25-year-old. , as if to better get along with the Ukrainian soldiers, failing to be able to fight alongside them.

“I am more useful to Ukraine by being in Manchester and helping the Ukrainians as much as I can, by sending equipment, money, or explaining to everyone who is listening to me what is happening right now. in Ukraine, “he said.

With a precise narrative and a voluntary tone, Zinchenko burst into tears several times during recent interviews and press conferences, like last Tuesday, 24 hours into the game against Scotland.

“Many countries do not understand that Ukraine is being attacked today, but that tomorrow it could be them,” he said. the Russian invasion on February 24, when he sent a personal message to Vladimir Putin on Instagram, wishing him dead.

– “Event full of emotions” –

“Zinchenko is a very patriotic Ukrainian, very sensitive too, a real Ukrainian,” said coach Oleksandr Petrakov, 64. Petrakov himself proposed joining the National Army last winter, before being encouraged to focus on the goal of a second World Cup participation, after 2006, and on strong extra-sporting value that it would generate.

A moral leader, Zinchenko will also have to carry most of his teammates on his shoulders in Cardiff. Six of the 11 Glasgow starters play normally in Ukrainian clubs and, before the victory in Glasgow, had not played a single official match in months. Only Yarmolenko (West Ham), Yaremchuk (Benfica), Malinovskyi (Atalanta) and Mykolenko (Everton) were able to finish the season normally.

Welsh defender Ben Davies acknowledged that the play-off final will be an “emotional event, where many people will be waiting for good news for Ukraine, but we must try to stay focused on football during these 90 minutes”. Scottish captain Andy Robertson had not said anything else until last Wednesday’s game.

Authorities gave 100 tickets to Ukrainian refugees, in addition to the 5% of seats allocated to visitors in the settlement, at a 33,000-seat stadium, Cardiff City Stadium, which will be closed. Wales have not qualified for the World Cup finals since 1958.


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