Arsenal star Zinchenko ‘dreaming’ of return to Ukraine ahead of England match

Oleksandr Zinchenko has a dream – that soon he will once again play with the sweet smell of his home country in his nostrils. Due to the ongoing fighting following Vladimir Putin’s invasion 18 months ago, Ukraine have been forced to play their “home” Euro 2024 qualifier against England in Wroclaw, 600 miles from the Ukraine border.

While it will be made to feel like a home from home, it can never quite match the real thing according to the Arsenal player. “I’m expecting a full stadium of blue and yellow because I know a lot of Ukrainians are living here,” he said.

“First of all I would like to say a massive thanks to Poland for all the help and support during our toughest period since our independence. I know some friends living here since the invasion and the feedback is that Polish people are helping as much as they can.

“It will be an amazing atmosphere and I’m expecting a good game as well, both teams play good football. However, it is impossible to say that it is going to be the same atmosphere as when we play in Ukraine – because when you play in Ukraine even the air is different.

“I can’t wait until the time we will be back playing in Ukraine because all of us are just dreaming about it.” Zinchenko made no apology for using the occasion as a platform.

“We need to speak out,” he said. “The first message, the most important and which I have to say every single time is that I must say a massive thanks to the Ukraine army to have this chance to play for the national team. We are representing our country.

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When I first started with the national team, Under-15s, Under-16s my coaches used to say “we are representing our country” – so any rubbish on the streets (of Ukraine), that is our face, so they tell us to show the rest of the world who we really are.

“I need to show to the rest of the world what is happening in my country at the moment because unfortunately now there is a lot of propaganda everywhere and people need to know the truth.”

Expected Ukraine XI to face England (4-1-2-3): Trubin, Konoplya, Zabarnyi, Matviyenko, Mykolenko, Stepanenko, Zinchenko, Sudakov, Tsyhankov, Dovbyk, Mudryk

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