It is not just a game of soccer, this Tuesday. How could it be? For Ukraine, with everything it has been through as a nation these past years, every time the flag flies, every time nationalism is on display, things get raw and tense and emotional.

To state the blindingly obvious, soccer and war are very different things, however much we sometimes lazily talk about the metaphorical battle or combat on fields of play. Yet the truth is there can be no mention of Ukraine’s national soccer team’s current bid to reach this summer’s European Championship without discussing the trauma the country continues to suffer.

If Ukraine can top Iceland on Tuesday in a one-off playoff in the Polish city of Wroclaw (3:45 p.m. ET) and qualify for the tournament, it will mean many things. For a simple start, it will represent a remarkable sporting achievement, given the level of upheaval forced upon Ukrainian soccer by external factors.

When the Russian invasion began just over two years ago, the Ukrainian league shut down, leaving several players to try to move to overseas clubs, with mixed results. Many members of the current team have families in regions either under Russian control or under siege. One midfielder, Taras Stepanenko, plays for Shakhtar in the Russia-controlled Donetsk region. Oleksandr Karavayev‘s family is in Kherson, which fell to invading forces in one of the conflict’s most infamous early battles.

When Ukraine’s professional league eventually restarted, games were played with no fans and still often take place amid the wail of air-raid sirens.

Reaching the Euros would be the chance for Ukraine to come together again on an international stage, and serve as a reminder of sorts. The Ukraine war has not waned in its intensity, but over time has slipped from the top of the headlines list both here and elsewhere.

Finally, it would be the ultimate sweetheart story of the tournament. If stars like Chelsea’s Mikhailo Mudryk can see off Iceland, Ukraine would instantly become many fans’ second favorite team in Germany this summer and a potential Cinderella right off the bat.

But while their story is surely the most compelling, there are others, and this round of playoffs — six teams vying for the final three places — is very juicy. Ukraine’s opponent, Iceland, is a tiny nation and a squad that has elicited much love in past tournaments.

At the 2016 Euros, Iceland made it through the group stage, dumped out England in the round of 16, and by the time a quarterfinal with host France rolled around, an estimated third of the national population of 330,000 had made its way to Paris to sound off their rousing and iconic “Skol” Viking clap chant, inside and outside the stadium.

Most of the rest of the populace gathered on a massive hill in the capital, Reykjavik, for stirring scenes of revelry with Viking horned hats and a generous allotment of beer.

That generation of inspirational players has gone, and the current bunch has had some struggles. The Euro 2024 qualifying campaign wasn’t kind, and included a defeat to Luxembourg, and this playoff opportunity only came about due to Iceland’s passable ranking in the Nations League standings.

All that will be forgotten, though, if the Scandinavian underdog can write another chapter and attain qualification, under Norwegian head coach Aga Hareide.

Another Tuesday must-see will be Wales meeting Poland (3:45 p.m. ET on FS1).

It took Wales 58 years to qualify for a major tournament following the 1958 World Cup, but this will be a third straight Euros appearance for a team that never fails to be supported by a loud, colorful and passionate band of traveling fans.

There is no more channeling the brilliance of Gareth Bale, with the veteran star finally hanging up his cleats after the World Cup, in which Wales had nothing to show except a 1-1 tie with the United States and a pair of defeats.

This game would likely be a pick ‘em on neutral territory but home advantage plays for the Welsh, who will be expecting an intimidating backdrop to spur them at Cardiff City Stadium.

Head coach Robert Page’s team is relaxed, with much local humor having been made of the supposed mythology of defender Connor Roberts’ facial hair. Roberts, so the legend goes, has never lost in 25 games for club and country … while sporting his current mustache.

Common sense suggests that more important to the outcome will be how Roberts and his colleagues cope with the threat of Robert Lewandowski, now 35, but still outstanding for Barcelona and Poland.

This seems sure to be Lewandowski’s final tilt at the Euros, and his accomplishments speak for themselves over the past decade and a half.

“Lewandowski is a fantastic player, absolutely,” Wales coach Robert Page said. “We have to respect that, of course. But it stops there. It goes out the window.”

The final route to Germany, Pathway D, is one specifically set up to allow one team lower in the rankings to get a shot at qualification. It is not really intended for former champions, but such has been the recent struggles of 2004 shock winner Greece that that’s where they find themselves.

Greece has long been in the doldrums and endured some truly miserable campaigns of late. It hasn’t reached a World Cup in a decade or a Euros since 2012 and seems a long way from being able to compete at the highest level. Nevertheless, opportunity arises through the quirks of the system and here we are, with the team just a victory over Georgia away from making the tournament field.

Georgia found itself at this same stage four years ago, but heartbreakingly lost at home to North Macedonia. Coached by former France national team star Willy Sagnol, the Georgians have a sprinkling of talent plying their trade in England and Italy, but also squad members playing in Azerbaijan, Iran and Cyprus.

Sagnol doesn’t like to talk of favoritism, only of possibility.

“What is important is to be given a chance,” he told reporters. “And the chance is one worth taking.”

For the six teams in action this week, those are words to follow.

Martin Rogers is a columnist for FOX Sports. Follow him on Twitter @MRogersFOX and subscribe to the daily newsletter.

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