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Mar 3, 2014

Ukraine-U.S. will go on as scheduled

The U.S. men's national team confirmed Monday night its friendly against Ukraine Wednesday in Larnaca, Cyprus will be played as scheduled.

Media reports out of Ukraine stated earlier on Monday that because of the increasingly tense political situation in the country, the team was refusing to travel to the match. The exhibition was originally scheduled to take place in Kharkiv, but was moved last week to Larnaca, Cyprus amid security concerns.

This was on top of news that the start of the Ukrainian Premier League had been postponed due to Russia's military intervention in Ukraine's autonomous region of Crimea.

"We cannot hold the national championship so what kind of football can we talk of at all? If we do not have an opportunity to play on home soil, why shall we go to Cyprus in those troubled times for your country? We play for our people and country. Our team do not fly to Cyprus and stay at home," said Ukraine Football Federation president Anatoliy Konkov, in an interview with the ICTV channel that was originally reported by Reuters.

But the U.S. Soccer Federation confirmed Monday evening that the national team will get to play Ukraine after all.

The U.S. squad has been training in Frankfurt, Germany and planned to leave for Cyprus on Tuesday morning.

The friendly is part of the United States' preparation for this summer's World Cup.

Ukrainian team spokesman Alexander Glyvynskyy conveyed the players' collective concern over developments at home on Monday, and stressed that the players -- who come from all over the country -- are united. Despite threats to cancel the match, Konkov said Tuesday the game would go ahead.

"(We) reached a consensus to play the USA after all," Konkov said in a statement that also praised the American team. "(They) stood behind us to protect the national interests and territorial integrity of Ukraine."

The match, which will be played at Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium, is a key warm-up for the United States ahead of this year's World Cup. But for Ukraine, which failed to qualify for the tournament in Brazil, it will serve as preparation for the qualifying tournament for the 2016 European Championship.

Ukraine coach Mykhailo Fomenko said he expects Wednesday's game to be similar in style to a Premier League match, since many of the American players play for English clubs.

All of them will be looking for a spot on the World Cup squad.

"This game is a huge opportunity, mainly for our European-based players, for those guys to prove to us that they are eager and hungry to jump on the train to the FIFA World Cup," U.S. coach Jurgen Klinsmann said.

Antonis Papadopoulos Stadium has hosted many of Cyprus' international matches, but it's not the Mediterranean island's top football venue. The GSP Stadium in Nicosia, however, is unavailable because Cyprus is hosting Northern Ireland in another friendly.

This is the second time in recent weeks that Cyprus has been selected as an alternate venue for a match involving a Ukrainian team. Last month, a Europa League match between Dynamo Kiev and Valencia was moved to the Cypriot capital.

Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.

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