Football can be a wonderful thing as heroes celebrated their heroes on Wednesday evening. Oleksandr Zinchenko wouldn’t call himself a hero, far from it, he is just lucky that his talent has allowed himself, and likely his family, to be far away from war.
The Manchester City left-back is unable to fight for his country but, in a sense, he is fighting for his country. A 90-minute game that can realise his and his teammate’s dream of qualifying for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar.
It becomes Wales against the world on Sunday evening as eleven bruised, grieving, tired individuals find the strength once more to carry themselves over the line. The line will never compare to the trenches in Donbas, the shelters in Kharkiv or awakening to the explosions in Mariupol, but that line will unintentionally carry a similar comparable weight as their nationals back home.
No matter what the result, they are heroes as Ukraine asks the world for aid, medicine, food, weapons and body armour. They also need joy; Artem Dovbyk, Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk gave them that at Hampden Park.
For 94 minutes, Ukrainian soldiers dropped their weapons and had one eye on the television, celebrated in dismal times and forgot the situation they find themselves in. It gave them a sense of normal life, the one that has been taken away from them.
President, Volodymyr Zelenskyy, is one person that has praised the group of players, including the City midfielder, claiming that they won for their fighting spirit and giving joy to the nation.
"He said: “Two hours of happiness that we’ve grown unaccustomed to. They went out. They fought. They persevered. They won. Because they are Ukrainians! We fight, we fight, we endure, we win.”"
Zinchenko has shown his emotion in interviews and press conferences this season but it was his character that was evident in Scotland.
The mini de Bruyne was integral to their victory against a below-par Scotland as he was advanced into his more suitable position of central midfield, giving a standout performance as they dominated the majority of the game. He created three major chances, 69 passes with a 100% long ball accuracy and one assist, could have been more should the strikers have taken their chances.
He remains focused on the next game as a footballing dream can become reality, saying: “We have one more game, one more final, and we have to win it. We have to win it or today means nothing.”
Although he has been linked with a transfer away from the Etihad during the transfer window, many Citizens have taken the young man to their hearts. All City fans, barring the Welsh, will all be wishing Ukraine line up in England’s Group B.
A dream could come true but that dream would be swapped in an instant to stop the Russian military aggression to end the war.