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Ukraine’s World Cup playoff victory is bigger than just sports

A victory in a soccer game won’t stop the bombs from raining down on eastern Ukraine. A spot in the World Cup won’t end Vladimir Putin’s murderous ambitions to obliterate an independent Ukraine and erase its culture.

But any triumph by Ukraine’s men’s national team is a triumph for all of Ukraine, and that is reason enough to root for The Blue and Yellow. No matter what country you call home.

With war-weary fans watching from basements and bomb shelters, Ukraine moved within a game of its second-ever World Cup appearance Wednesday night. Despite not having played a competitive game since mid-November and its players scattered across Europe by the Russian invasion, Ukraine upset Scotland in a thoroughly convincing 3-1 win.  

Ukraine now plays Wales in Cardiff on Sunday, with the winner joining the United States in Group B in Qatar later this year.

“Obviously, of course everyone knows the situation in Ukraine right now, and every single game for us is like a final game,” Oleksandr Zinchenko, the Manchester City midfielder, said after the game. “But we have a dream … to be in the World Cup, so we have one more game, one more final. We need to win it, we need to take it.

“Otherwise this game is not going to mean anything.”

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Sports often seem trivial in times of war, large-scale violence or natural disasters.

What does a game matter when entire cities are being destroyed, people are being killed and loved ones are being forced to flee their homes? Most Ukrainian men aged 18 to 60 aren’t even allowed to leave the country, so badly is everyone needed in the war effort.

Yet the Ukrainian team’s resolve is a reflection of that country’s pride and resilience, and it is heartening to see the players play on when Putin seemingly wants nothing more than to see…


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Author : USA TODAY

Publish date : 2022-06-01 23:38:42

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