(Reuters) – Scotland midfielder Callum McGregor says sympathy for Ukraine’s plight will have to be put to one side for Wednesday’s World Cup playoff semi-final at Hampden Park.
The winners of the clash will go forward to face Wales on Sunday with a place in the Qatar tournament on the line and Ukraine will be the neutral’s choice in the wake of Russia’s invasion of their country.
Because of the volatile situation at home, Ukraine’s squad of 21 home-based players has been forced to train for the match in Slovenia since the start of May.
McGregor sympathises with the Ukrainian players but says Scotland must only focus on doing their job.
“We understand the situation and have sympathy for it,” McGregor said. “You turn on the news every day and something else has happened. It’s a real horrific situation.
“All the talk in the build-up to the game will probably be around that, but it’s important that we realise we have a job to do. When both teams cross the line, they’ll be just as motivated as each other to progress.
“We can’t be thinking about anything else.”
Scotland have not qualified for the World Cup since 1998 and McGregor says the motivation is huge.
“We’ve waited a really, really long time to have that opportunity to get back to a World Cup so (Ukraine’s) motivation can’t be any more than ours,” the Celtic player said.
“We just have to approach the game professionally.”
Scotland came through the playoffs to qualify for Euro 2020 and that experience will be invaluable, McGregor said.
“They are nervy affairs naturally, so it’s good we’ve been in the situation before, but it will be a completely different game,” he added. “We just need to stay calm.”
(Reporting by Martyn Herman; Editing by Christian Radnedge)