How to watch the Ukraine-Wales World Cup playoff game

CARDIFF, Wales – Several months after Russia invaded their country in February, Ukrainian football teams could not train so much together, let alone play.

On Sunday, the World Cup will be played for admission.

The game, once unthinkable and the least worrying for the Ukrainian national team, takes place at Cardiff City Stadium in Wales, a modest stadium about 1,500 miles from the Ukrainian capital, Kiev, away from the horrors of war.

Here’s what you need to know.

The game is broadcast in the United States by ESPN and streamed on ESPN Plus. (Warning: You may see records showing that the match is in ESPN2; it was until Friday when the network evaluated interest in the game and moved it to ESPN.)

ESPN’s broadcast will begin at 11:30 a.m. East. The game starts at noon.

Sunday’s match is, in the strictest sense, a winner-takes-all-out theme. Sunday’s winner will win one of the last three places at the World Championships in Qatar in November. The loser can try again in four years.

Ukraine has not qualified for the World Cup since 2006, which is its only previous trip to the tournament.

But Wales has waited even longer: the last – and only – World Cup performance took place in 1958, and the team is eager to end the drought, even if it means ending Ukraine’s dreams at the same time.

“It’s still missing,” said Welsh captain Gareth Bale, who has five Champions League titles on his resume, but not a single minute at the World Cup. “We have a game tomorrow to set it up and qualify. Everyone wants to play at the World Cup. It’s no different for me.”

Sunday’s game is the last match in a four-team play-off – two semi-finals and a final – which didn’t go as expected. The games were originally scheduled to take place in March, but Ukraine’s semi-final against Scotland was postponed shortly after the Russian invasion, although Wales went on to play against Austria, winning 2: 1.

FIFA, the global governing body for football and the organizer of the World Cup, announced in April that the Ukraine-Scotland match had been postponed to 1 June and that the final, already scheduled for Wales, would take place a few days later.

On Wednesday, Ukraine defeated Scotland 3: 1 in an emotional match at Gampgow’s Hampden Park. This was the first official game of the Ukrainians after November.

Until the Scottish game, it was difficult to know what to expect from Ukraine. The timing of the World Cup playoffs was one thing. Preparing for the game was another topic.

Like most European teams, there are players scattered across the continent in Ukraine: Oleksandr Zinchenko won the Premier League title with Manchester City, and Andriy Yarmolenko (West Ham), Ruslan Malinovski (Atalanta) and Roman Yaremchuk (Benfica) all play. For major European clubs. This meant that the core of the team received regular training and games, even if their thoughts were constantly distracted by the civil war.

However, Ukraine’s league was closed immediately after the Russian invasion, leaving a large number of Ukrainian players in the field. The top clubs of Donetsk Shakhtar and Kiev Dynamo managed to bring their players out of the country and organize camps and several exhibition matches abroad so that their players could train.

At the same time, Ukrainian coach Oleksandr Petrakov organized a training camp for his team in Slovenia and took the team members on a bike when they were free. All this time, messages came from Ukraine: from soldiers, family members, friends who were fighting to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty from Russian forces.

“They’re making only one demand,” veteran midfielder Taras Stepanenko told The Guardian of the messages he and his teammates were receiving. “Please do your best to go to the World Cup.”

Ukraine coach Oleksandr Petrakov: “We have a very difficult situation in the country. Not everyone watches football. We are in mourning, people are dying… ”

“We’re not thinking about it. We’re thinking about how to make our fans happy, our armed forces, and we’re focusing on the game.

Welsh Captain Gareth Bale: “We will be the most popular team in the stadium, that is the main one. We understand the terrible things that are happening in Ukraine. We know the children, families and people of Ukraine from the bottom of our hearts. We have all felt terrible during that time and couldn’t do too much. we want to win. “

Ukrainian defender Oleksandr Karavaev: “We realize that the most important game in our lives is ahead.”

As the World Cup draw took place between the start date of the March playoffs and Sunday’s final, the winner of the Cardiff will know his World Cup route immediately.

It will land in a group with England, Iran and the United States and will open the World Cup on the first day, November 21, against the Americans.

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