LARNACA, Cyprus (AP) — One banner in the stands read “Ukraine is Undivided!” on the top and “One Country — One Team!” on the bottom. Ukrainian fans sang their nation’s anthem in the final moments, and some broke into a chant of “No war in Ukraine!” after the final whistle.
A small contingent of Ukrainian fans had a couple hours to forget about their nation’s troubles, wave their flags and unite amid a political crisis back home. Ukraine eased past the United States 2-0 on Wednesday in an exhibition soccer game shifted from Kharkiv to a Mediterranean island nation 600 miles to the south.
“Our country is facing difficult times now, we must support our team and our country,” said Oleg Ivanovskyi a fan from Kiev currently residing in Larnaca. “Ukraine lives and will live. This friendly match is important for us to show the friendship between the U.S. and Ukraine. The friendship between the two countries is more important than the score.”
Andriy Yarmolenko scored in the 12th minute and Marko Devic in the 68th as Ukraine exposed the shaky American central defense of Oguchi Onyewu and Anthony Brooks.
Ukraine’s players linked arms on shoulders during their national anthem of their nation, which has been disrupted by political protests followed by Russia’s military intervention. Players in both starting lineups bowed their heads as they stood on the field before the game for a moment of silence for the victims of violence in Ukraine.
U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said his team’s thoughts were with the Ukrainian people.
“You feel for that country. You feel for that nation, and there’s nothing more than wishing them well and to solve these issues peacefully,” Klinsmann said.
At 18th, Ukraine is the highest-ranking nation that failed to qualify for the World Cup. The match marked the last chance for Klinsmann to evaluate his Europe-based players before he chooses his 23-man World Cup roster in mid-May. He will use a squad mostly from Major League Soccer for an April 2 exhibition against Mexico at Glendale, Ariz.
U.S. women draw with Japan at Algarve Cup
The United States gave itself a difficult path to repeat at Algarve Cup champions.
Aya Miyama scored on a 35-yard free kick in the 83rd minute, giving Japan a 1-1 tie against the defending champion United States on Wednesday in their opener of the women’s soccer tournament in Parchal, Portugal. Sydney Leroux had scored in the 59th minute for the U.S., which extended its unbeaten streak to 43 games (36-0-7) since a March 2012 loss to Japan at the Algarve Cup.