Ukraine midfielder Taras Stepanenko has sounded a note if warning to his country's opponents ahead of their World Cup qualifiers in June.
Russian forces invaded Ukraine in February and three months later, the invasion shoes no signs of stopping. Football, like many other sectors of life in the country has suffered greatly.
This caused the World Cup qualifiers with Scotland to be moved to June, with hopes that the Ukraine national team can regroup before then.
Wales and Scotland stand in their way of a World Cup ticket, with the Ukrainians needing to beat Scotland first, before taking on Wales who themselves are on a mission to get to Qatar.
Stepanenko, however, has sounded a note of warning to both teams. The midfielder noted that his team is spurred on by the messages from their fellow players and other Ukrainian citizens, as well as the military themselves who are on the front lines of the battlefield.
Stepanenko was speaking at a press conference announcing Ukraine's first match since the attacks by Russia. German Bundesliga club Borussia Monchengladbach will be their friendly opponents on May 11, and the midfielder talked about the state of mind of his teammates ahead of the friendly and their World Cup qualifiers.
“Everyday we receive messages from our soldiers. A lot of soldiers, a lot of people in Ukraine love football and they (have) only one demand: ‘Please do everything you can to go to the World Cup’,” Stepanenko told a news conference.
“Because for the country, for them, it’s like a moment of hope.
“It will be like a celebration for the country. That’s why we have to play, not only a football game, we have to play with our soul, with our heart.
“This is very, very important. It will be very emotional for my country, for our players and for all Ukraine.”
Monchengladbach match more than a friendly for us
The Ukrainian squad are currently refugees in Slovakia where they have been training ahead of June. Stepanenko noted that the state of the nation weighs them down a bit more than they let on as they train to stay match fit.
“Everyday you see the photos, videos about what happened in my country and every time we speak about these guys, sometimes it’s difficult," he said.
“But we understand what this game means for us and we have to do everything we can to do our best.”
“We haven’t got any official games now and we have no internal championship because of war, so the most important thing for our guys is to give their all in these games,” Oleksandr Petrakov, manager of the national team added.
“Not like it’s a friendly, but like it’s an official match, because it’s the only opportunity for us to have good preparation.”