Zelensky thanks Ukrainian soccer team for ‘2 hours of happiness’ after win in World Cup qualifier

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky thanked the Ukraine national soccer team following its win over Scotland in the World Cup playoff semifinals on Wednesday.

“There are times when you don’t need a lot of words!” Zelensky wrote in an Instagram post. “Just pride! Just thank you guys! Two hours of happiness from which we are accustomed.”

Ukraine’s 3-1 win over Scotland places the team one game away from qualifying for the 2022 World Cup. They will face off against Wales on Sunday in the playoff finals.

“Joy to our military, to our whole country,” Zelensky wrote. “We are all fighting, each on his own front, for this. For our blue-and-yellow flag, for our coat of arms on our hearts, for ‘Ukraine is not dead yet…,’ which cannot be silenced.

“We fight, we endure, we win,” he added.

FIFA, the international soccer governing body, placed an indefinite ban on Russia from competitions at the end of February when the country invaded Ukraine. The ban disqualified Russia from competing in the World Cup, set to take place in Qatar later this year.

The Court of Arbitration for Sport blocked an appeal from Russia weeks after the ban was put in place.

Wednesday’s game had been scheduled for March, but FIFA postponed the match following Russia’s invasion at the request of the Ukrainian team, which told the governing body it could not field a team at the time. 

The winner of Sunday’s game between Ukraine and Wales will qualify for the World Cup and join teams from England, the United States and Iran.

“Every game for us now is like a final,” Ukrainian midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko told ESPN

“We have one more and we need to win it — we need to take it or this won’t mean anything,” he said. “Everyone knows the situation back in Ukraine, so it [Sunday] is going to be a massive game for us. We need to show the best performance of our lives.”

Ukraine reached the quarter finals of the World Cup in 2006, the only time it had qualified for the tournament since it joined FIFA as an independent country in 1992.