To a World Cup match. The Ukrainian team is just one step away from reaching the group stage of Qatar 2022. Despite all the difficulties of the war, Oleksandr Petrakov's team managed to beat Scotland 3-1 on Thursday in Glasgow . Now, Gareth Bale's Wales, which he will face this Sunday at 6:00 p.m., is the only obstacle that stands in his way before reaching the finish line.
For three months, Ukrainian players have not had the opportunity to train or measure themselves against rivals of their own level. In February, when the war broke out, the local championship was suspended and the teams withdrew from all international competitions.
Only a lucky few managed to find a new contract with other teams and leave during an 'exception' market, created by FIFA, where only players from the Russian and Ukrainian leagues could move. The World Football Federation later postponed Ukraine's qualifying matches.
Russia's invasion provoked a strong reaction from the country's players, such as Manchester City midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko, who spoke harshly against Russian President Vladimir Putin. Another example was Andrij Shevchenko, former coach of his country's national team and historical player, who publicly exposed himself in favor of his people.
During these months the organization in the football field was not easy. The team decided to concentrate on a quiet town in Slovenia (Brdo), but not everyone could arrive at the same time due to the difficult conditions in the country. When they managed to get together, other problems arose, such as finding a team or a selection willing to play against them to train and thus measure the level of football after so long without activity. Only at the beginning of May did some clubs offer to help them prepare for qualification. Before Thursday's game, the team only played three friendlies that allowed them to gather ideas and, above all, strength.
Football can be a social weapon as President Vlodomir Zelensky's words demonstrated: “There are times when many words do not work! Thanks guys! Two hours of happiness that we are not used to », he wrote on Telegram to thank the players after the victory against Scotland. Now there is only one last match left to qualify for the World Cup, a goal that three months ago seemed impossible, due to the country's position and the Russian invasion, while now it has become a necessity.
The team they will face is Gareth Bale's Wales. In Cardiff and with his selection, the former Madrid player, he has always found his best form in the national team, especially in recent years, when relations with the Spanish club were far from idyllic. At the same time as Ukraine, the 'Red Dragons' seek a qualification for the World Cup which they have not attended for 64 years, when in Sweden (1958) they reached the quarterfinals. . Ukraine is also looking for its second edition after the one in 2006, where they reached the quarterfinals. This time it's not just sport, it's not just football, but rescue, freedom and happiness for a country that has been 'drowned' for too long.