For Ukraine they will not be normal Europeans

For Ukraine they will not be normal Europeans

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The Ukrainian men’s national football team will play its debut match at the 2024 European Championships against Romania on Monday at 3pm. It is the first major international tournament in which Ukraine has participated since it was invaded by Russia in February 2022: no they had in fact qualified for the 2022 World Cup, losing in the playoffs against Wales. At the last European Championships, in 2021, Ukraine reached the quarter-finals, the best result in its history, and this year it seems to have an even stronger team than the one three years ago.

Ukraine is part of group E together with Belgium, Romania and Slovakia: the sports site L’Last Man he wrote that «a possible early elimination of Ukraine would be a real failure for the quality the team can have». It is clear, however, that Ukraine arrives at these European Championships in particular conditions, linked to the war being fought in the country. The national team has not trained in Ukraine for over two years and plays its home matches in stadiums outside the country: in the Ukraine-Italy European Championship qualifiers it was played in Leverkusen, Germany, and the other three matches in Slovakia, Poland and in the Czech Republic. The team that won the last Ukrainian championship, Shakhtar Donetsk, has not played matches in its stadium since 2014, when Russia occupied that territory, establishing the Donetsk People’s Republic.

– Read also: Who signed and who did not sign the peace conference declaration for Ukraine

According to Guardianover five hundred sports facilities were damaged by Russian attacks, while La Gazzetta dello Sport wrote that at least three hundred and fifty stadiums have been destroyed or rendered useless, including some of those used in the 2012 European Championships, hosted by Ukraine and Poland. “Travelling to games is tiring, but it’s nothing compared to what our soldiers are doing,” he recently told CNN Sport l’allenatore Sergiy Rebrov.

Rebrov has been coaching the Ukrainian national team since June 2023. As a footballer, he was a fairly successful striker between the 1990s and 2000s: he played together with Andrij Schevchenko (current president of the federation, as well as the best Ukrainian footballer ever) in Dynamo Kiev and then also in England, with Tottenham and West Ham. Before Ukraine, he had coached Al-Ain in the United Arab Emirates for two years, and before that Ferencváros, Al-Ahli and Dinamo Kiev.

Sergiy Rebrov, 50, has been coaching Ukraine for a year (Grzegorz Wajda/SOPA Images/ZUMA Press Wire)

Rebrov has spoken often about the country’s situation recently, insisting that Ukraine is fighting for something bigger, perhaps even to motivate its players. CNN Sport he wrote that the coach often reads messages from soldiers fighting on the front in the locker room and sometimes, before matches, he showed the players some videos of Ukrainian children whose lives changed after the war. “When you watch these videos you go onto the field with a different motivation,” Rebrov said.

About half of the national team’s players still play for Ukrainian teams and in general most of them, or their families, have suffered the consequences of the bombing. Last week the national team published a video on its social channels in which thirteen footballers talk about how their places of birth were affected by the war. Moreover, the President of Ukraine Volodymyr Zelensky has asked athletes several times to speak publicly about the situation in the country, to raise people’s awareness of what is happening. The European Football Championships are played in Germany, which together with Poland is the European country to have welcomed the largest number of people fleeing the war (there were over a million already in the summer of 2023).

The video in which the footballers talk about the damage caused by the war in their cities of birth

Regardless of the context, as mentioned, Ukraine is an excellent national team. Among his strongest players are Real Madrid goalkeeper Andrij Lunin, Arsenal full-back Oleksandr Zinchenko, Chelsea striker Mykhaylo Mudryk and Girona center forward Artem Dovbyk, who won the title of best scorer in the season Spanish championship with 24 goals. In general, Ukraine has many talented offensive players (there are also, among others, Ruslan Malinovskyi, Andrij Jarmolenko, Viktor Tsygankov and the 21-year-old Shakhtar attacking midfielder Georgiy Sudakov, considered very promising), but in the last few matches he has shown that he is above all a very solid team in defense.

Since Rebrov arrived, Ukraine has lost only one official match out of eleven, the 2-1 against Italy at San Siro on 12 September 2023. In the last friendly preparations for the European Championships they drew 0-0 against Germany, lost 3-1 against Poland and won 4-0 against Moldova. Before 2012, when it hosted the European Championships on home soil, Ukraine had never qualified for the tournament. Since then, however, it has always participated in the European Championships: this year it came third in the qualifying group behind England and Italy and qualified thanks to the playoffs, in which it beat Bosnia-Herzegovina and Iceland.

– Read also: In Kharkiv they know what war is

2024-06-17 09:53:03
#Ukraine #normal #Europeans

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