Ukraine should not be gifted World Cup spot, insists boss
Ukraine manager Oleksandr Petrakov has dismissed suggestions that his side should be given a place at the 2022 FIFA World Cup in Qatar rather than face potential playoff matches against Scotland and Wales that have been postponed following the start of Russia's attack on Ukraine.
Senior international managerial newcomer Petrakov's side should have known their fate by now after they were drawn to visit Scotland in the playoff semifinals on March 25, when a win would have sent them through to a decider in Wales on March 29.
Those games were postponed by playoff organizers UEFA until June, although Wales, Scotland and Ukraine will discover who they will face at the finals should they progress when the draw is made as part of the 72nd FIFA Congress in Doha on Friday.
There are concerns that the uncertainty in Ukraine could make it difficult for Petrakov and his squad to play matches in June, and some commentators have suggested that they could be given a bye to the finals.
One UK newspaper columnist said this week that Wales and Scotland could solve a "moral conundrum" by stepping aside to let Ukraine take part in the World Cup, which will take place in November and December.
Kiev-born and based Petrakov does not agree with the idea and has revealed that negotiations have been ongoing over the resumption of Ukraine's qualification campaign.
“We told everyone what we would do, how our affairs would go in the selection for the World Cup," the long-serving coach of his country's youth teams told Football24 via Championat.
"UEFA will tell us what date we will play in June. We discussed everything, we have a complete understanding of the situation, but I will not say what we will do next.
"'Gifted' access to the World Cup? We must play, get this ticket. I speak only for myself – there is also the [views of the] president and the executive committee of the UAF [Ukrainian FA]. But personally, I am against it – you need to play."
Andriy Yarmolenko, an English Premier League forward for West Ham and one of Petrakov's key players, has also shunned the prospect of Ukraine being granted automatic entry to the World Cup.
Petrakov initially said that he expected the playoff matches to take place on their original dates.
Responding days after the conflict began on February 24, the 64-year-old said he had spoken to Yarmolenko and compatriot Oleksandr Zinchenko, a defender for Manchester City, and shared their "shock" at the situation.
Ukraine, ranked 27th in the world by FIFA, face a tough challenge to qualify. Scotland are 12 places behind them but have won their last four competitive matches at home, while Wales are ranked 18th and were inspired by four-time Champions League winner Gareth Bale in their 2-1 semifinal win over Austria in Cardiff.
Former Dynamo Kiev assistant Petrakov was appointed as Ukraine legend Andriy Shevchenko's successor in August, overseeing the end of an unbeaten qualification campaign in which only World Cup holders France finished ahead of his team.
"We still have April and May to come and we will see what happens then. We are supposed to playing Scotland in June as well as Nations League games," Petrakov told Football 1 via ESPN this week. "But we can't think about them at the moment given the current situation."
Petrakov has also vowed never to speak Russian again despite describing the language as his mother tongue.