Oleksandr Zinchenko has said “Ukraine gave everything” after losing 1-0 to Wales in the World Cup play-off final.
Ukraine’s preparations for the qualification play-offs were thrown into chaos by the Russian invasion on February 24.
Fighting is still continuing across vast swathes of the country, at least 8,000 civilians have been killed (though the true number is expected to be far higher), while Ukraine’s footballers have been forced to flee.
Six of the starting XI on Sunday evening played in the Ukrainian Premier League, which has been suspended since late February, and had not played a match until Wednesday’s 3-1 semi-final win over Scotland.
That win at Hampden Park gave Ukraine hope of reaching just their second World Cup as an independent nation, but that came to an end in the Cardiff rain.
Gareth Bale’s freekick was cruelly deflected into his own net by Andriy Yarmolenko in the 34th minute for the only goal of the game, sending Wales to their first World Cup.
Ukraine will feel unlucky not to be awarded a first-half penalty after a clash between Yarmolenko and Joe Allen. VAR looked at the incident, but did not recommend that referee Antonio Mateu Lahoz consult the monitor.
Wales will join England, the United States, and Iran in Group B.
Speaking after full-time, the devastated Zinchenko shared his pride in Ukraine’s performance.
“Every one of us gave everything today, we left everything on the pitch,” said the Manchester City left-back, who plays in midfield for his country.
“In general I don’t think we deserved to lose, but that’s football, it happens.
“Football is about emotions, we can bring some great emotions to our fans, but unfortunately today we didn’t get the result we wanted.
“Everyone needs to continue to fight, as footballers we need to represent our country as best we can.
“Everyone needs to live in peace and we need to stop the war altogether. Today it’s Ukraine, but who knows tomorrow? We need to stay together.”
His message was echoed by Oleksandr Petrakov. “I think we did everything we could, but I really want the people in Ukraine to remember our team, our efforts,” the manager said.
“I want to say sorry we didn’t score but this is sport.”
“I want to express my gratitude to Wales. I wish your team all the best in the World Cup and the whole of Ukraine is very grateful to Wales.”
Both sides applauded the Ukrainian fans at full-time, hundreds of whom were refugee children, given free tickets by the Welsh FA.
(Photo: Michael Steele/Getty Images)