‘We are alive and we are still fighting’ - Ukraine defiant ahead of Ireland clash

Visitors motivated to do their nation proud in Dublin with opportunity ‘to call for the whole world’s attention’ in Ireland game

The Ukraine national team training at the Aviva Stadium ahead of their clash with the Republic of Ireland tonight. Photo: Sportsfile

Aidan Fitzmaurice

Ukraine’s national side will try to lift the spirit of their war-ravaged nation when they take on the Republic of Ireland in Dublin tonight.

The Ukrainian side came to Ireland with spirits bruised by Sunday’s loss to Wales which ended their World Cup dream, and coach Oleksandr Petrakov is expected to make 11 changes to his side.

The morale of Stephen Kenny’s Ireland side is on the floor after a shock 1-0 loss away to Armenia effectively ended any hopes they had of winning their Nations League group.

Despite their raft of planned changes Ukraine say they will not lack motivation for their first meeting at senior level with Ireland as they look to inspire a nation under invasion by Russia.

“Everybody knows what is happening in our home country, and what our people are going through. Our aim and our task now, is not only to go onto the pitch and play, but to call for the whole world’s attention to highlight that we are Ukrainians, we are alive, and we are fighting,” Dynamo Kyiv midfielder Serhiy Sydorchuk said before training in Dublin last night.

“It’s not difficult to get fired up for the game because when you get feedback from Ukraine, when know that soldiers watch our games in trenches, and that people are following us under the bombs, it gives us enormous strength and enormous inspiration.

“My mother, my father, my granny, my wife’s parents are still in Zaporizhzhia. My whole extended family are still there. I am happy to say that it is relatively calm there but I feel very proud that the blue and yellow Ukrainian flag is still above the city. That gives me the strength to carry on.”

Manager Oleksandr Petrakov says he has tried to lift the squad after Cardiff.

“I can’t be sulking and sad because life goes on,” he said. “It’s all in the past. The Wales game is in the past. Let’s move on and let’s forget. This is football, this is sport that’s how it works.”

Ireland boss Stephen Kenny is also set to make changes. Injured captain Séamus Coleman is definitely out while Jason Knight and James McClean are pressing for a place in the starting XI.