Mark Temnycky –
The Junior Moraes controversy has overshadowed Ukrainian football for some time. This weekend UEFA has finally decided on how to proceed.
In March 2019, UEFA’s 55 member nations launched their respective qualification campaigns for the 2020 European Championships. Twenty teams will directly qualify for the tournament via the group stages while four more teams would have to qualify through the second round playoffs, determined by the UEFA Nations League results.
In Group B, Ukraine would compete against Portugal, Serbia, Lithuania and Luxembourg. The Zbirna began their campaign against a difficult Portuguese side in Lisbon, and due to defensively sound performance, the Ukrainians earned an important result. The Eastern European team then travelled west as they faced an improved Luxembourg team. Despite some lapses in focus and a shaky performance, Ukraine earned their first victory in the group through an unfortunate Luxembourg own goal.
Junior Moraes – Ineligible or not?
Following these two matches in March, Ukraine found themselves at the top of Group B with four points, and Ukrainian manager Andriy Shevchenko was very pleased with these results. The football federations of Portugal and Luxembourg, however, felt they had been undone and filed a protest to UEFA as a means of undoing these results.
According to these two football federations, the Zbirna fielded an ineligible player in both matches as Júnior Moraes, the player in question, had not spent enough time in Ukraine to be granted citizenship.
UEFA announced its Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body would review the protests and would reach a verdict in the coming months.
On May 3, the UEFA Control, Ethics and Disciplinary Body reached its verdict. The CEDB rejected the protests made by the Portuguese and Luxembourg federations, and the case was dismissed. The CEDB determined Júnior Moraes had legally obtained Ukrainian citizenship and was thus eligible to compete with the Ukrainian men’s national team.
Junior Moraes not ineligible
The Ukrainian Football Federation then acted swiftly and shared the CEDB’s decision on the official FFU page. In a public statement, Andriy Pavelko, the head of the FFU, announced he was relieved the misunderstanding was exhausted and that no further action would be taken against the Ukrainian men’s national team.
The decision means Ukraine will retain their place at the top of Group B with four points after two matches. Meanwhile, Luxembourg are in second, and Portugal are in third.
Ukraine will face Serbia and then Luxembourg on qualification matchdays 3 and 4. Should the Zbirna earn positive results in these matches, this would put Ukraine in prime position to qualify for the 2020 European Championships directly, thus avoiding the second round of qualification.
The matches against Serbia and Luxembourg will be held on June 7 and June 10, respectively. Both games will be held in Lviv.
Mark Temnycky reports on the Ukrainian men’s national team and Ukrainian clubs competing in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. Outside of the Futbolgrad Network, he covers Manchester City for SB Nation’s Bitter and Blue. Follow him @MTem33