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Oleksandr Zinchenko: Ukraine's World Cup play-off vs Scotland more than a game | Vows to make country proud

Ukraine's World Cup play-off semi-final at Hampden Park comes against the backdrop of war, following Russia's invasion on February 24; watch Scotland vs Ukraine live on Sky Sports Main Event from 7pm on Wednesday; kick-off 7.45pm

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Speaking to Sky Sports, Oleksandr Zinchenko says Ukraine's World Cup play-off semi-final against Scotland is more than a football match

Oleksandr Zinchenko says Ukraine's World Cup play-off semi-final against Scotland is more than a football match as the defender vowed to make his country proud.

Wednesday's game at Hampden Park in Glasgow comes against the backdrop of war, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine on February 24.

The fixture was originally due to take place in March but was delayed by FIFA until June to give Ukraine the chance to qualify for the Qatar finals later this year.

An emotional Zinchenko, who broke down in tears at a media conference on Tuesday as he outlined what the match meant to him, later told Sky Sports he and his team-mates are determined to lift the spirits of a beleaguered nation.

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Asked whether this is more about sending a message, he said: "Yes, 100 per cent. That's for sure. Everyone is in the same situation and everyone is going to give everything.

"My mission is to try to help Ukraine as much as I can, to make Ukrainian people proud and that our nation is living with freedom and that we will never give up.

"We need to focus on our game, we need to try and give some good emotions to the Ukrainian people so that's what we're going to try to do."

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Zinchenko, who scored against Sweden at Hampden in the European Championship finals less than 12 months ago, admits he is not sure how he will react when Ukraine's national anthem is played ahead of kick-off.

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Ukrainian journalist Andrew Todos says qualifying for the World Cup would send a message to the world that the war-torn county is still standing and fighting against Russia

"I have been thinking about this moment for a long time," he added.

"I don't know what is going to be inside my heart because I think it's impossible to describe the feeling. I try to imagine but I think it's going to be so emotional.

"When this tough period started on February 24, nobody was thinking about football and I couldn't even think that this game was going to happen.

"I think it's impossible to describe until you are in this position, so for us as football players, we have unbelievable lives, we have families, facilities around us, but for the people who are struggling, suffering, starving, it's impossible to describe."

    The 25-year-old left-back, whose team will also need to beat Wales in Cardiff on Sunday to qualify for the World Cup, revealed he stays in regular contact with those close to him back in his home country but remains concerned about their safety.

    "I keep in touch with everyone, with all my family every single day and with my friends," Zinchenko said. "They look like they're in the safe positions, the safe cities, but you never know what can happen because the Russian aggression is still there.

    "They're attacking other cities and civilian buildings with their bombs, so you never know what can happen."

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    Manchester City defender Zinchenko could not hold back the tears as he spoke on the eve of Ukraine's World Cup qualifier against Scotland

    Petrakov: Focusing on football 'very difficult'

    Speaking at a media conference on Tuesday, Ukraine head coach Oleksandr Petrakov admitted he had been facing a major challenge to keep his players focused on football, with a range of emotions swirling around their minds.

    "Clearly it's a very difficult task to prepare your team for the game when every single player is thinking about mothers, fathers, close relatives, family back home in Ukraine," Petrakov said.

    "We use all sorts of methods, even jokes. We motivate people in a light manner. But clearly every player understands how huge the task is.

    "That will make their task even more difficult, working under a lot of stress. But we are trying to do our best and achieve results. The team is fully prepared."

    However, Petrakov admitted he would only find out how sharp his Ukraine-based players would be when the action starts.

    The majority of his squad is based in the Ukrainian league, which halted for a winter break in December and did not resume after the Russian invasion on February 24.

    The likes of Dynamo Kyiv have played a number of friendlies and Ukraine faced club sides Borussia Monchengladbach, Empoli and Rijeka at a training camp for their domestic players in Slovenia.

    Petrakov said: "What the players will be like, we will see on the football pitch."

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