The highly-anticipated international clash at Hampden Park will hold extra emotional weight
Scotland will be seeking to move within one game of reaching their first World Cup in 24 years when Ukraine arrive at Hampden Park on Wednesday night.
However, the contest holds extra meaning for their opponents, who are set to take to the pitch for the first time in a competitive setting since November 2021 after a harrowing start to the new year for the country.
GOAL takes a look at why the play-off game is about more than just football, what it means to Ukrainians and, indeed, to Scots.
Scotland vs Ukraine: A game about more than just football
The playoff tie was originally scheduled to take place in March but was pushed back following Russia’s military invasion of Ukraine.
Martial law is now in effect in the eastern European country, while all men aged between 18 to 60 have been banned from leaving the country, but an exception has been made for professional footballers.
Oleksandr Petrakov’s side will be putting on a united front for the people of Ukraine as the civilian death toll continues to rise.
Some 44 million Ukrainians are still living in the war-torn country, many under the bombardment of Russian missile attacks, and each and every member of the national team squad will be playing in their honor with a view to providing some happiness and a brief reprieve from the day-to-day horrors of the conflict.
What is going to happen before Scotland vs Ukraine?
Despite the fact that Scotland and Ukraine are facing off with World Cup qualification on the line, both sets of fans will come together in a tribute to the people of the latter nation before kick-off.
Home supporters are set to sing the Ukrainian national anthem alongside the visiting fans in a show of unity.
scotland boss steve clarke has also confirmed that his players and staff will clap during the anthem out of “respect” for those affected by the war in Ukraine.
What is the current football situation in Ukraine?
Ukraine announced the suspension of football across all levels following Russia’s invasion in February 2022.
Two months later, the decision was taken for the 2021-22 Ukrainian Premier League season to be abandoned due to the extension of martial law status in the country.
It has not yet been confirmed whether football in Ukraine will resume in time for the start of the 2022-23 season.
What has Zinchenko said about the World Cup play-off?
Manchester City full back Oleksandr Zinchenko called for an end to the war in Ukraine in an emotional pre-match press conference earlier this week.
Zinchenko, who is set to win his 49th cap against Scotland, told reporters: “Every Ukrainian wants one thing, to stop this war.
“I’ve spoken with people from all round the world, and also spoken to Ukrainian kids who just don’t understand what’s happening. They only have one dream: to stop the war.
“When it comes to football, the Ukrainian team have our own dream: we want to go to the World Cup, to give these incredible emotions to the people, because Ukrainians deserve it so much at this moment.
“Everyone understands what is going on in Ukraine these days, what the situation is on the ground, and that’s why our motivation is definitely 100 per cent to win.”
Are Scottish fans conflicted about the Ukraine game?
Clarke and Scotland captain Andrew Robertson have both stressed the importance of focusing on the task at hand and separating themselves from the emotion of the occasion when the action gets under way against Ukraine.
The Tartan Army will be out in full force to drive the team on at Hampden, but not all Scottish fans are backing them for victory.
Indeed, former Scotland skipper and Liverpool legend Graeme Souness is expecting a “strange night” as he admits that he would like to see Ukraine win and go on to qualify for the World Cup in Qatar.
Souness has told The Times: “When I have thought about this game in my quieter moments, I’ve thought, ‘How would I deal with this?’
“Part of me keeps coming back to the fact that it’s just a game of football, and do I really want to beat them? Whether it’s sport, politics, the arts, whatever it is, we must send a message to Russia that it’s not acceptable what they are doing.
“I’m going to find myself in a really difficult situation. I’ll be emotional. I don’t just want Ukraine to qualify, I want them to go there (Qatar) and win it.
“How far do you have to bury your head in the sand not to realize the situation the world’s in right now? Will it be when someone presses the button on a nuclear weapon?
“I’d not want to be one of the Scottish players playing that night. I don’t know where my emotions would be. My emotions when I think about it deeply are that it’s more important than football to send a message that Russia’s behavior is unacceptable.
“The world has to unite and tell them that — you can hear the emotion in my voice. That’s my over-riding feeling on the situation.
“I’m doing it for television and I’m not sure how I’ll cope with that. I know the majority of our supporters who go there will feel the same — there you are. It’s going to be a really strange night. ”