WROCLAW: Ukraine have qualified for the Euro 2024 finals to cheered a country suffering hardship in its conflict with Russia.

They came from behind to defeat Iceland 2-1 and will be in Group E with Belgium, Slovakia and Romania, who they face in their opening game in Munich on June 17.

Russia’s war with Ukraine has now entered a third year and, despite heavy casualties on both sides, it shows no sign of coming to an end following Russia’s invasion of February 2022.

Captain Oleksandr Zinchenko said: “I am very proud to be a Ukrainian, to be of the same blood as those who are now giving their lives for our freedom.

“We need to talk about it, shout about it every day. This is the only way we can win. It was one of our most emotional games.

“It is an amazing feeling. I am very happy because it is another dream come true. A big thank you to our fans, they helped us through these difficult times amazingly.”

Coach Serhiy Rebrov said in the build-up to the Iceland match that it was hard for his team to concentrate on football.

Rebrov added: “The missiles are flying every day. Our mission is to show that we’re all alive and fighting against the Russians and that we need Europe’s support.”

He said his players were “watching the news about the shelling of Odessa and Kyiv (and made) even more angry and eager to show our potential on the football pitch.”

Rebrov hailed the “character of our players and our nation” to keep going in a qualifying campaign where, as refugees from the war themselves, Ukraine have staged ‘home’ matches spread across Europe.

Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy praised the team’s resilience in difficult times.

“Thank you, team. For the important victory and making it to EURO,” Zelenskiy said in a post on X.

“For proving once again, whenever Ukrainians face difficulties they do not give up and continue to fight, Ukrainians certainly win.

“In times, when the enemy tries to destroy us, we demonstrate every day that Ukrainians are and will be. Ukraine is, and will be! Glory to Ukraine!”

Ukraine successfully completed their qualification mission in Poland, which has the largest concentration of Ukrainian refugees of any country.

Still, it has been no easy path to the finals.

Rebrov’s side came through a tough qualifying group that included European champions Italy and runners-up England, managing draws against both sides.

It followed the disappointment of losing to Wales in a playoff for a place at the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, after which former Ukraine striker Rebrov took over in June last year.

With Roman Yaremchuk and Artem Dovbyk in attack, the pace of winger Mykhailo Mudryk, guile of Zinchenko in midfield and steel of Illya Zabarnyi and Vitaliy Mykolenko at the back, Ukraine have a capable squad.

Rebrov said: “It was very difficult to be on the coaching bench today, I saw how difficult it was for the guys. I am grateful to all of them for this gift for our country. In such a difficult time, it is very important.”