Scotland Vs Ukraine Preview: “Scotland giving anything less than their absolute best in World Cup play-off clash would be disrespectful to battling Ukraine”

Date: 31st May 2022

(Art:@Sparkius_art)

The SFSA’s trusted Scotland writer Ben Ramage offers his thoughts on the upcoming Ukraine fixture which will be far from a usual night at Hampden:

Scotland giving anything less than their absolute best in World Cup play-off clash would be disrespectful to battling Ukraine

Some people believe politics and sport should never mix.

But unfortunately for everyone involved in Scotland’s crucial World Cup semi-final play-off clash with Ukraine, it’s simply unavoidable this time around.

It’s totally acceptable to have mixed feelings heading into this clash for a myriad of reasons.

While I have my usual dose of dread that everything that can go wrong, will go wrong on the pitch, that is only heightened by a sympathy for our opponents I’ve never experienced before.

In football it’s normally so simple to see the opposition as the enemy, and in a purely football sense Ukraine are the enemy at Hampden on Wednesday night.

They are the country standing in the way of our dream of returning to the World Cup once again.

But it’s simply impossible not to have conflicting emotions when you consider the horror that Ukraine as a country has been, and very much still is, suffering.

The very fact that UEFA and FIFA are making Ukraine’s players take on this monumental clash given the circumstances their family and friends are facing back home shows a staggering lack of sympathy.

Another solution was surely possible, but unfortunately football stops for nothing these days – not even war. So now the Ukraine national team, seriously lacking match sharpness and emotionally strained, is gearing up to try and beat both Scotland and Wales and give their country something positive to shout about.

And who in their right mind could begrudge them that?

This is exactly why Wednesday night’s play-off is drawing up such a mixture of emotions.

Graeme Souness was largely panned by the Tartan Army for admitting he’d like to see Ukraine progress all the way to this year’s World Cup.

And while I can’t argue with the sentiment, I have to disagree with the implication.

Scotland should in no way be giving anything less than their absolute best on Wednesday night.

Sporting integrity aside, Ukraine has shown through its continued resilience to Vladimir Putin’s despicable war machine that they are a proud and courageous nation.

They want to fight for their chance to reach the World Cup and it’s an absolute credit to them that they have managed to pull their team together – physically and emotionally – to face the Hampden roar.

For Scotland, we simply must return the favour and give them a fair fight.

Professional sportsmen and women never want to win any contest unless they’ve earned it.

So it’s imperative that Steve Clarke’s Scotland, if they are to bow out, make sure Ukraine at least do that and deservedly leave Hampden as victors.

And rest assured, while some are arguing otherwise, it’s totally acceptable to sympathise with Ukraine’s current plight off the field while also wanting our football team to beat theirs on it.

While there can only be one winner on Wednesday night, the fact that Ukraine will line up and sing their national anthem – backed by thousands of Scottish supporters – will be enough of a show of unity to remind Russia and Putin that they are the real enemy.

And come Sunday, I still very much hope and pray that it’s the Tartan Army marching down to Cardiff looking to cement a return to the World Cup stage after so many years away from football’s promised land.

 


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