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Nicola Sturgeon: A bit of Scots’ hearts will be with Ukraine during game

Scotland face Ukraine at Hampden on Wednesday with the winner advancing to take on Wales in a World Cup decider.

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Scotland have been preparing for the big game at at Oriam in Edinburgh (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Scotland have been preparing for the big game at at Oriam in Edinburgh (Andrew Milligan/PA)

Scotland have been preparing for the big game at at Oriam in Edinburgh (Andrew Milligan/PA)

A bit of everyone in Scotland’s hearts will be with Ukraine during Wednesday’s decisive World Cup qualifier, Nicola Sturgeon has said.

The two nations will face each other in a play-off with the winner heading to Wales for a decider in the hope of booking a place to Qatar.

But the Russian invasion of Ukraine has overshadowed proceedings, with an outpouring support being sent to the eastern European side.

Scotland’s First Minster, speaking after a meeting with Ukrainian MP and leader of the country’s liberal Voice party Kira Rudik, said she would be supporting the country if they make it to Qatar this winter instead of Scotland.

“I’ll be there tonight supporting Scotland. I want Scotland to win,” she told the BBC.

“I want Scotland to go to the World Cup.”

She added: “I think it will be a really emotional occasion.

“I think a bit of everyone’s heart tonight, no matter how strongly we will be supporting Scotland, will be with Ukraine.

I actually envy everybody involved because of the national anthem, because it is the most emotional part of the match when people are singing itKira Rudik, Ukrainian MP

“If Scotland doesn’t qualify for the World Cup and Ukraine does qualify, I’ll be supporting Ukraine at the World Cup.”

Speaking to journalists in the Scottish Parliament on Wednesday, Ms Rudik said the occasion would be an emotional one for Ukrainians.

“I know it’s a big deal, and I know it will be great honour and very important that people will be competing in a fair game,” she said.

“I actually envy everybody involved because of the national anthem, because it is the most emotional part of the match when people are singing it.”

Ms Rudik remembered the first day of the Russian invasion, when she and her colleagues went to the Ukrainian parliament to vote on enacting martial law, doing so while singing the country’s anthem.

“At that moment, we were all united,” she said.

The MP added that it “breaks her heart” she will not be able to attend the game at Hampden, instead leaving for Dublin on Wednesday afternoon.

In the hours before kick-off, the National Youth Pipe Band of Scotland played the Ukrainian national anthem at Kelvingrove Art Gallery in Glasgow.

Scottish Secretary Alister Jack also wished both teams well ahead of the fixture, saying: “We may be in competition on the pitch but, off it, the people of Scotland stand shoulder to shoulder with the people of Ukraine.”

The game has prompted complicated feelings for the Tartan Army, with Steven Carr, the chairman of the charity Dnipro Kids, which supported poor children in the Ukrainian city and helped to bring dozens to Scotland after the invasion, saying it would be “bittersweet” if Scotland were to advance.

“I would love Scotland to win because Scotland has been deprived of a big championship for a long time,” said the 54-year-old.

“But it’s going to be a bittersweet victory if we do win because, obviously, everybody is 100% behind Ukraine with what’s going on and I don’t think anybody would be too disappointed if Scotland did get beat and Ukraine went onto qualify for the World Cup.

“I don’t think anybody in Scotland would be overly perturbed by that situation. It’ll be a disappointment, but well done to Ukraine and all the best in qualifying.”

While Stephan Luczka, a third generation Ukrainian in the UK, hopes that a win for the visitors would provide a “massive uplift for the country and its soldiers”.

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