In an effort to keep players safe during a dangerous period in Ukraine, the United States national soccer team will move its upcoming game from Kharkiv to Cyprus.
Reuters provides the latest information on the match scheduled for March 5:
Ukraine's soccer friendly against the United States next month, scheduled to take place in Kharkiv, has been moved to Cyprus due to the unstable political situation, Ukraine's football federation said on Tuesday.
Soccer officials took into consideration the request of the U.S. for the game on March 5 to be played outside Ukraine, a statement on the federation's website said.
Sports Illustrated provided more of the Ukranian statement on the decision:
“After discussions with the Ukrainian Football Federation, we have decided not to play in Ukraine on March 5 and are planning to move the match to a city in Cyprus. We are in the final stages of discussions with Ukraine and the Cyprus Football Association to determine the location and kickoff time. We hope to have confirmation on all the match details by Wednesday.”
According to Phil Black, Nick Paton Walsh and Michael Pearson of CNN, protests of President Viktor Yanukovych led to massive violence in Kiev, causing 100 deaths and another 577 injured. An arrest warrant has been issued for the ousted leader, but fighting still occurs throughout the nation.
As a result, the two sides in the match have decided to move the match to the island of Cyprus. Andrew Das of the New York Times notes that there is recent precedent for this move:
Dynamo Kiev just played Valencia in Cyprus last week, in resked of Europa League game. So move of USMNT match there is logical.— Andrew Das (@AndrewDasNYT) February 25, 2014
Despite the outside conditions, this is an important match for the American squad as it attempts to prepare for the 2014 World Cup. This is the first of two scheduled friendlies, along with a battle against rival Mexico on April 2.
This is all in preparation for arguably the toughest draw in Brazil, featuring battles against Germany, Portugal and Ghana. A strong performance against a quality European foe could certainly help Team USA gain some confidence going into the summer.
Meanwhile, Ukraine did not qualify for the 2014 World Cup but came extremely close. After finishing in second place in their group, they earned a 2-0 lead in the first leg of the playoff against France. Unfortunately, they could not hold on and gave up their spot in the prestigious tournament.
Still, this match remains a highly anticipated battle as both squads return to action after a long absence. Of course, safety is the biggest priority as each organization does its best to keep its players and fans out of danger. This rescheduled matchup should ensure that things go off without a hitch.
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