‘Soldiers watch our games in trenches, people are following us under the bombs’ – Ukraine ready for Irish test

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AS the war in their country rages on, Ukraine’s national team have arrived in Dublin and they believe that their efforts on the field of play are being followed closely by those in the trenches back home.

owncast after their World Cup dream ended in a 1-0 loss to Wales on Sunday, Ukraine regroup for a Nations League game against Ireland in Dublin on Wednesday, where the crowd of 38,000 will include at least 3,500 Ukrainian refugees in Ireland who have been given free match tickets by the FAI.

The loss of their place in the 2022 World Cup clearly hurts but veteran midfielder Serhiy Sydorchuk says his side do not lack motivation for the game in Dublin, given the suffering back home.

“It’s not difficult to get fired up for the game because when you get feedback from Ukraine, when you get to know soldiers watch our games in trenches, people are following us under the bombs, it gives us enormous strength, enormous inspiration,” the Dynamo Kyiv player told a press conference before Tuesday night’s training session at Lansdowne Road.

“This is our main team so I am totally fired up to play for the number one team of our country. When you are a young footballer, when you just start your career at the age of seven or eight, there is only one team for you. You don’t support any clubs or any other teams, it is the national team of Ukraine.

“Especially now, everybody knows what is happening in our home country, and what our people are going through. Our aim, our task now, is not only to go onto the pitch and play but to call for the whole world’s attention to highlight that we are Ukrainians, we are alive and we are fighting.”

The midfielder, in line for his 50th cap in Dublin, outlined how the war had impacted on him. “Basically we left Kyiv with my family when the military bombardment, the shelling, started. My wife was eight months pregnant so our first task was to find a maternity hospital suitable for her to give birth to our child. What we experienced is what the rest of Ukraine is experiencing now,” he said.

Manager Oleksandr Petrakov will make changes to his side after two energy-sapping World Cup ties against Scotland and Wales, with keeper Heorhiy Bushchan and midfielder Taras Stepanenko definitely out, but he will try and get a focus on the Nations League.

“There is an extreme exhaustion when it comes to the players who took part in the Wales’ game. I had a series of individual talks with players, basically trying to smile and trying not to show how disastrous the whole thing was,” the manager said.

“I am trying my best to support the players. I cannot be sulking and sad because life goes on . It’s all in the past, the Wales game, let’s move on and let’s forget. This is football, this is sport, this is how it works.”

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