Road to Qatar: Zinchenko wants to make Ukraine 'proud' in World Cup playoffs

Oleksandr Zinchenkosays he wants to give Ukrainians something to smile about as his team prepares for next week's World Cup playoff semifinal against Scotland.

The match, taking place in Glasgow next Wednesday, was rescheduled from March after Russia's invasion of Ukraine.

Ukraine is certain to earn the support of fans around the world in its first competitive match since the war started and the Manchester City defender said he was "shaking inside" at the prospect.

"Ukraine is still alive," the 25-year-old defender told the BBC. "Ukraine is going to fight until the end. This is our mentality. We never give up. I'm so grateful and so thankful for all the support around the world. Scotland are such a good team. They have unbelievable fans. I can promise all the Ukrainian people that every one of us is going to give everything to win the game and to make them proud of us and just maybe for a few seconds we would like to give them this smile."

The leftback, who won the 2022 Premier League title with City, said it had been difficult to focus on soccer in the early weeks of the conflict.

"All my thoughts were with Ukraine, Ukrainian people. I would say for everyone, for every Ukrainian footballer, it was exactly the same," he said. "This game is one of the most important games in my life. The guys look ready and it's not necessary to talk about motivation. The physical condition, obviously without the games, it's not easy to prepare yourself for the guys that haven't played for a while. In this case, there is no excuses and we have to do our job as best as we can."

Scotland is trying to qualify for the World Cup for the first time since 1998 while Ukraine has only appeared at the tournament once since it began playing as an independent nation, in 2006.

The winner of the match in Glasgow will face Wales in the playoff final in Cardiff on June 5. 

jw/ea

@ Agence France-Presse

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