How to Watch the Ukraine-Wales World Cup Playoff Game

For months after Russia invaded their nation in February, the members of Ukraine’s nationwide soccer group had been unable to maintain a lot as a observe collectively, not to mention play a recreation.

On Sunday, they’ll play for a spot in the World Cup.

That recreation, as soon as unthinkable for Ukraine’s group, and by far the least of its considerations, can be towards Wales at Cardiff City Stadium, a modest area about 1,500 miles from Kyiv, Ukraine’s capital, and a world away from the horrors and traumas and worries of warfare.

Here’s what you want to know.

The recreation is being broadcast in the United States by ESPN and streamed on its ESPN Plus service. (Warning: You might even see listings saying the match is on ESPN2; it was, till Friday, when the community reassessed the curiosity in the recreation and moved it to ESPN.)

Broadcast protection on ESPN begins at 11:30 a.m. Eastern. The recreation kicks off at midday.

Sunday’s match is, in the strictest sense, a winner-take-all affair. The victor on Sunday will declare certainly one of the ultimate three locations in the World Cup in Qatar when it kicks off in November. The loser can strive once more in 4 years.

Ukraine hasn’t certified for the World Cup since 2006, its solely earlier journey to the match.

But Wales has waited even longer: Its final — and solely — World Cup look was in 1958, and the group is keen to finish that drought, even when it means ending Ukraine’s goals at the identical time.

“It’s still missing,” stated the Wales captain, Gareth Bale, who has 5 Champions League titles on his résumé however not a single minute in the World Cup. “We have a game tomorrow to put that to bed and qualify. Everyone wants to play at a World Cup. It’s no different for me.”

Sunday’s recreation is the ultimate match of a four-team playoff — two semifinals and a ultimate — that didn’t go as anybody anticipated. The video games had been initially scheduled for March, however Ukraine’s semifinal towards Scotland was postponed quickly after Russia’s invasion, whilst Wales went forward with a recreation towards Austria, winning by 2-1.

In April, FIFA, soccer’s international governing physique and the organizer of the World Cup, introduced the Ukraine-Scotland match had been rescheduled for June 1, with the ultimate — already set for Wales — to be held a couple of days later.

On Wednesday, Ukraine beat Scotland, 3-1, in a recreation charged with emotion at Hampden Park in Glasgow. It was the Ukrainians’ first official recreation since November.

Until the Scotland recreation, it was exhausting to know what to anticipate from Ukraine. Rescheduling its World Cup playoff was one factor. Preparing for the recreation was one other matter.

Like most of Europe’s nationwide groups, Ukraine has gamers who’re scattered throughout the continent: Oleksandr Zinchenko simply gained a Premier League title with Manchester City, and Andriy Yarmolenko (West Ham), Ruslan Malinovskyi (Atalanta) and Roman Yaremchuk (Benfica) all play for large European golf equipment. That meant the core of the group was getting common coaching and video games, even when their minds had been continuously distracted by the warfare again house.

But the Ukrainian league shut down as quickly as Russia invaded, leaving the bulk of Ukraine’s gamers with no place to play. The prime golf equipment Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv managed to get their gamers out of the nation and arrange camps overseas and a sequence of exhibition matches so their gamers might practice.

At the identical time, Ukraine’s coach, Oleksandr Petrakov, arrange a training camp in Slovenia for his group, and cycled in members of the squad as they grew to become obtainable. All the whereas, messages poured in from Ukraine: from troopers, from members of the family, from mates preventing to defend Ukraine’s sovereignty from Russian troops.

“They make only one demand,” the veteran midfielder Taras Stepanenko told The Guardian of the messages he and his teammates obtain. “‘Please do everything you can to go to the World Cup.’”

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

“We don’t think about it. We are thinking about how to make our fans happy, our armed forces, and focused on the game.”

Wales captain Gareth Bale: “We’ll be the most popular team in the stadium, that’s the main thing. We understand the awful things going on in Ukraine. Our hearts go out to the kids, families and people of Ukraine. We’ve all felt awful during this time and not been able to do too much. But come tomorrow, it’s a game of football. We want to win.”

Ukraine defender Oleksandr Karavayev: “We understand that the most important game in our lives is ahead.”

Since the World Cup draw befell in the window between the unique dates of the playoff in March and Sunday’s playoff ultimate, the winner of the recreation in Cardiff will know its World Cup path instantly.

It will land in a gaggle with England, Iran and the United States and open the World Cup on its first day, Nov. 21, towards the Americans.

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