Acting Ukraine boss Oleksandr Petrakov has bizarrely claimed that the only difference between his team and their opponents on Saturday is France’s taste for amphibians.
Long-serving international coach Petrakov insisted that Ukraine are on a par with heavyweights France ahead of their meeting in Kiev, when the visitors can move seven points clear of their second-placed rivals and take a huge step towards qualifying for next year’s World Cup in Qatar with a victory.
Ukraine are still seeking their first win of the qualification campaign after drawing all four of their matches in Group D so far, and Petrakov issued a curious rallying cry before the midway match of their bid to reach the finals.
“Don’t get upset – we need to continue playing, we need to win against France,” Petrakov was quoted as saying by Tribuna, revealing what he told his players after they drew 2-2 in Kazakhstan on Wednesday.
“I came in, didn’t say anything bad, encouraged them. I said that it was OK – we still have a game.
“There is France – you need to play football, not be afraid of anyone. They are the same people as us, only French. They eat frogs, we don’t.”
According to French site The Local, the World Cup-winning nation has an appetite for around 160 million frog legs each year, with several at a time required to make a meal.
Some sources suggest the tradition dates as far back as the 12th century, with certain regions of France being more likely to favor the delicacy.
Petrakov spent 10 years managing his country at youth levels and is leading the senior team for their World Cup campaign following the departure of Ukraine legend Andriy Shevchenko in the summer.
Ukraine had a dramatic evening in Kazakhstan in their first match since losing 4-0 to England in the quarterfinals of Euro 2020, taking an early lead through a spectacular strike by Benfica forward Roman Yaremchuk and making it 2-1 courtesy of Danylo Sikan’s 93rd-minute goal.
That looked to have given them a last-gasp first victory in qualifying, only for Ruslan Valiullin to equalize for Kazakhstan in the 95th minute.
France boss Didier Deschamps resisted any culinary comparisons between the sides. “I saw Ukraine’s matches at Euro 2020 and watched them against Kazakhstan,” he said.
“To be honest, I noticed a lot in common between Shevchenko’s team and Petrakov’s team.
“Of course, I will be very happy if we win. But I would like to note that we are aware of the strength of Ukraine.”