Soldiers send a flag to the Ukrainian team ahead of the World Cup qualifier against Wales | Ukraine


Ukraine head coach Oleksandr Petrakov has revealed his players will hang a flag given to them by soldiers fighting on the front line against Russia’s attacks in their dressing room ahead of their Cup play-off final of the world on Sunday. However, midfielder Oleksandr Karavayev said his country did not expect a pass or “gifts” against Wales in Cardiff.

Ukraine secured a place in the qualifiers final after an impressive performance in victory over Scotland in Glasgow on Wednesday. A few hours later, the team flew to Wales, where they received a welcome message upon arrival at Cardiff Airport. The Football Association of Wales donated 100 tickets to Ukrainian refugees for the game.

Karavayev’s family is based in the Russian-occupied city of Kherson. “They can’t watch the game because there’s no connection or internet,” said Karavayev, whose club Dynamo Kyiv haven’t played a game since December. “But they communicate through messages and read the news. I celebrated my birthday on June 2 and my mother’s on Friday and he [victory over Scotland] was a great gift for them. My friends follow the news and it was also a nice gift for them.

“It was very emotional for us and we had very strong support, even from the Scottish fans. We felt it and it helped us. In the last two or three years we had no full stadiums and it’s really good to have that and such support.

Commenting on facing Wales on Sunday, Karavayev said: “Sport is sport and we don’t expect freebies or an unfair victory. We know how difficult it is and it’s the most important match of their lives and we really want to win. We will do everything we can to win.

Petrakov said there was no pressure on Ukraine to win the game. “I don’t communicate with any soldiers but my players write to the soldiers and they received a war flag, which they promised to hang in the dressing room,” he said. “It’s a really difficult situation in Ukraine and not everyone has the chance to watch football. Not everyone does because of a lot of problems. We will try to focus tomorrow and play a good game .

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Petrakov, whose side trained exactly 24 hours before kick-off on Saturday, named Gareth Bale, Aaron Ramsey and Daniel James as key threats. “I noticed that the [Wales] the team is very cooperative and very good, especially Bale, Ramsey and James,” he said. “But I think we are good too and everyone will have the chance to see a good game.”


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