Tottenham’s Ben Davies praises ‘stand-out’ Ukraine star ahead of Wales World Cup play-off final

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Ben Davies has praised the Ukraine squad for the manner in which they have handled adversity in the lead-up to their World Cup play-off final clash with Wales but emphasised the importance of divorcing the match from the occasion.

Ukraine earned an emphatic 3-1 win over Scotland in their play-off semi-final on Wednesday night, sealing their spot in the play-off final against Wales on Sunday in the Welsh capital. The semi-final was Ukraine’s first competitive fixture since November owing to Russia’s invasion of their country.

Sunday’s clash sees the final place at this year’s World Cup up for grabs, but Davies acknowledged that the grim reality surrounding the Ukraine squad back in their homeland cannot be escaped, and the left-back has commended the squad for their show of strength.

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“We think we are very lucky in the sense that we don’t have to see how tough it is every single day or how difficult it must be for them to have their lives uprooted. You have to just credit their players for the way they have handled it so far,” Davies said.

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“Football can kind of seem a bit insignificant in these times and moments, and it is very difficult to try and rationalise that a game is so important when you’ve got such major events going on in the world.

“As you can see what it meant to them the other day, they are as desperate to win this game as we are.”

Davies particularly specified Oleksandr Zinchenko for his ability to harness the ongoing horrors. Zinchenko’s scintillating performance at the heart of Ukraine’s midfield verged into unplayable territory and underscored the threat he poses on the pitch.

“The way that Zinchenko has handled it all in the media is a real credit to him, and he has shown what a stand-out man he is,” Davies said.

Davies will play one of the most important matches in his international career come Sunday. Wales have suffered a 64-year purgatory from football’s ultimate showpiece, a hiatus littered with excruciating near-misses and miniature tragicomedies.

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To eclipse that history with a World Cup berth would culminate a rousing few years for Davies and this Wales squad after they famously ended Wales’ 58-year wait from a major tournament with their qualification for Euro2016.

The stakes are high, and the emotional undercurrent bracing Sunday’s clash is palpable for both sides, but Davies said that removing the emotions from the match is of the utmost importance for Wales as they bid to put an end to the country’s World Cup drought.

“They want to win the game just as we do. The situation outside of that is away from football,” Davies said.

“We know it will be an emotional event, and a lot of people will be wanting some good news for Ukraine, but we have to try and stay out of that and focus on 90 minutes of football.”

Source by Football London

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