'They're wrong' - Celtic's Callum McGregor on the Scotland v Ukraine misconception

Callum McGregor insists Scotland will have no difficulty in divorcing their own desire for World Cup qualification from sympathy extended towards play-off semi-final opponents Ukraine.

Wednesday night’s Hampden clash is set to be an emotionally-charged affair as the Ukrainians play their first competitive fixture since the country was invaded by Russia in February.

But while Ukraine will inevitably have the backing of neutral observers in the circumstances, Scotland midfielder McGregor believes that anyone anticipating anything less than a ferociously competitive approach from Steve Clarke’s squad is badly misguided.

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“I don’t think it’s a balance (to be struck),” said McGregor. “When the game kicks off, we have to go.

“I think if anybody expects us to do anything other than that, they’re wrong.

“We appreciate the situation. It’s really tough to see. We flick on the news every day and something else has happened. It’s a horrific situation.

“But we have a game of football to play on Wednesday and they will be just as motivated as us to win.

"That’s sport. When the game comes, you have to put everything to one side and do everything to win.

Callum McGregor in training with Scotland at the Oriam in Edinburgh on Sunday as the squad prepare for Wednesday's World Cup play-off semi-final against Ukraine at Hampden. (Photo by Paul Devlin / SNS Group)

"They can’t have more motivation than us. It can’t be.

“We’ve waited a really, really long time to have that opportunity to get back to a World Cup so their motivation can’t be any more than ours.

“We just have to approach the game professionally.

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“We obviously have sympathy for the situation over there and it’s sad to see.

“But we still have a job to do.

“When the game starts, we have to be just as motivated, if not more so, to win the game.

“That’s our full focus in the days leading up to the game. When we cross that white line, we have to be ready to go.”

McGregor scored Scotland’s only goal at last summer’s delayed Euro 2020 finals, in a 3-1 defeat to Croatia at Hampden which consigned them to a group stage exit, and he is determined to make a rapid return to another major tournament finals.

“To see the build-up and the feeling around the country going into that tournament, that’s what we want to have again,” said the Celtic captain. “It will be magnified for a World Cup so the motivation is 100 percent there for us.”

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