May 12 – Ukraine’s men’s national team has played its first match since the Russian invasion – against Germany’s Borussia Monchengladbach on Wednesday.
Oleksandr Petrakov’s side were welcomed for the symbolic occasion by a crowd of 20,223 and won 2-1.
Ukraine have not played competitively since beating Bosnia and Herzegovina in November. They were due to meet Scotland in a World Cup qualifying play-off semi-final in March, but that game was postponed because of the ongoing war.
With the majority of Europe’s major club seasons still ongoing, Ukraine fielded only players from their domestic league, which was terminated last month in the wake of the invasion.
Players from both teams held up a ‘Stop War’ banner ahead of kick-off before goals from Shakhtar Donetsk’s Mykhaylo Mudryk and Dnipro’s Oleksandr Pikhalionok secured victory over the Bundesliga side, with all proceeds going towards relief efforts in Ukraine.
Thousands of spectators waved Ukrainian flags and joined the players in relaying a message of support to a country that came under attack from Russia on February 24.
“This match is very important, for our team and for our country,” said former Ukraine international Andriy Voronin, who was commentating on the match for German TV channel ProSieben.
“We feel that we’re not alone, the whole world is behind us.”
The game also served as a first warm-up ahead of the rearranged Scotland play-off, which will take place on June 1 before the winner faces Wales for the final European place in Qatar.
Petrakov and his players face a trip to Italy next week to face Serie A outfit Empoli on May 17 in another friendly.
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