Soldiers on the frontlines are asking the country’s soccer team to show ‘the spirit of Ukraine’ at Euro 2024, said manager Serhiy Rebrov, adding that players have felt an extra sense of duty ever since the Russia invasion.

Ukraine, making their fourth straight Euros appearance, will face Romania in the Munich Football Arena on Monday in their opening game of Group E.

“All the players, me personally, are getting lots of messages from our fighters, from our soldiers, from our friends who are now fighting for the freedom of Ukraine,” said Rebrov.

“I am sure they are very proud of us, we are very proud of them. They are telling [us], when you are here ‘show the spirit of Ukraine’. This tournament is really about the spirit of our country.”

Ukraine have a talented squad and are expected to reach the knockout stage. Their qualifying campaign was exclusively held outside the country due to the Russian invasion.

“It is very good and very important for Ukraine to be in this forum. Because all Ukrainians want to be a European nation… Of course now in our country, football is not in first place. There are lots of people dead, lots of kids dead… now is a very difficult time for Ukraine,” Rebrov said.

He thanked Europeans for their support but added that he wanted to remind people of their fight.

Defender Illia Zabarnyi said the first match of Euro 2024 and seeing Ukrainian flags in the stadium would be an emotional moment.

“For me it is a great honour to represent Ukraine. You know what times we are going through now. I feel incredible responsibility for my actions but I’m not worried about my game.

“We understand where we are and what we need to do. It is football and we need to play with a cold head.”

Asked whether defender Vitaliy Mykolenko had returned to full fitness ahead of the game, Rebrov said he was working very hard but it was not the type of injury that would be healed in one or two days.

Ukraine will also face Belgium and Slovakia in Group E.