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Ukraine hit with striker blow but shake off squad illness ahead of Ireland clash

Ukraine defender Vitaly Mykolenko paid tribute to Seamus Coleman ahead of tomorrow’s clash with Ireland in the Uefa Nations League.

File photo of Roman Yaremchuk.
File photo of Roman Yaremchuk.
Image: Alamy Stock Photo

THE UKRAINE SQUAD have shaken off illness ahead of their Uefa Nations League meeting with Ireland in Lodz, Poland, tomorrow night. 

Several players have reported high temperatures in recent days, including West Ham’s Andriy Yarmolenko and Atalanta’s Ruslan Malinovskyi, but the players have returned to training and are expected to be available to face Ireland. There is some doubt about the availability of midfielder Oleksandr Zubkov, who is still running a high temperature. 

“The whole team was ill at different times”, said manager Oleksandr Petrakov, but said illness is not Covid and nor is it a case of food poisoning. He attributes it to the consequence of playing in “the cold rain of Wales” in their World Cup play-off final last Sunday week. 

Ukraine are likely to be without Benfica striker Roman Yaremchuk through a shin injury, while defenders Eduard Sobol and Denis Popov clashed heads in training and are also doubful. 

The game is being played in the Polish city of Lodz on the word of Petrakov. The city was the venue for Ukraine’s triumph at the 2019 U20 World Cup, a team coached by Petrakov. Ukraine played their first Nations League game here on Saturday, beating Armenia 3-0. 

“I feel this connection and it was incredible as a lot of people came to give support”, said Petrakov. “After the game I was with some of my friends in the city centre, a lot of people came to see us and thanked us for the game and what we do, these emotions were incredible, I wanted to thank the Polish authorities for giving us the hotel, a place to play at home in, we feel this support from this country and we’re very grateful.”

Defender Vitaly Mykolenko said it would be far preferable that this game was happening in Kyiv, and said the war has given him a new perspective on life. 

“If the team was playing in Ukraine it would be much better”, said Mykolenko. “Before the war I thought my problems were the biggest, but now I realise they were small problems. I think now of only my team and country, and doing my best.” 

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Tomorrow will not offer Mykolenko the opportunity of a reunion with his club captain Seamus Coleman, with the latter ruled out through injury. Asked about him at the pre-match press conference, Mykolenko described Coleman as  “a great person and a great captain.” 

Mykolenko joined Everton from Dynamo Kyiv in the January transfer window, and thus spent New Year’s Eve alone in a Liverpool hotel. 

“New Year’s Eve is a great celebration for all Ukrainians”, said Mykolenko. “I was alone and he sent me a message: ‘I will always be there for you and if you need help, ask me and I will be there.’ For these five months [since], he has always helped me and has always been there for me.” 

About the author:

Gavin Cooney  / reports from the LKS Stadium, Lodz, Poland

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