Inside Track: Ukraine
Tuesday, 19 June, 2012
In their last meeting in October 2009, Ukraine beat England 1-0.
How they got there
Ukraine qualified as hosts. Now, during the competition, they sit third in the group after victory over Sweden and defeat to France. They require another win over England to progress to the knock-out phase.
Four successive friendly defeats in the middle of last year – including a 4-1 reverse at home to France and a 4-0 defeat away to the Czech Republic – spread alarm, but since then Ukraine have been much improved, although they lost their last two games coming into the tournament before their opening vicotry over Sweden. Before that, they won five of their last six friendlies, and the one that they didn’t was a 3-3 draw against Germany that they led 3-1 at one point.
In the dugout
Oleh Blokhin was one of the stars of Valeriy Lobanovksyi’s Dynamo Kyiv, playing in both the 1975 and the 1986 Cup-Winners’ Cup finals. Although he carries certain Lobaonvskyi traits – notably a disciplinarian approach and an insistence on tough physical preparation – his pressing game is far less intense than that of the Colonel. Tactically, he is flexible, but has tended to play either a 4—2-3-1 or a 4-4-2 with two deep-lying midfielders.
The forward Andriy Shevchenko is the biggest name but at 35 and carrying an injury, he is far from a certain starter. Bayern Munich’s Anatoliy Tymoschuk sits in front of the back four. Andriy Voronin, resurgent at Dynamo Moscow after a miserable time at Liverpool often leads the line, with the unpredictable Artem Milevskyi offering the main creative threat through the middle. The most consistent performers, though, have been the wide men, Konoplyanka of Dipro Dnipropetrovsk and Andiry Yarmolenko of Dynamo Kyiv.
England have played Ukraine four times before, winning three and losing one. All three wins were at home, the most recent coming in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley in April 2009 when a late John Terry goal gave England a 2-1 win after Shevchenko had cancelled out Peter Crouch’s first-half strike. England lost the return in Dnipropetrovsk, going down 1-0 to a Serhiy Nazarenko goal after Rob green had been sent off 14 minutes in.
“We have very ambitious mixture of young and experienced players united by great desire to reach the final of the tournament,” said Shevchenko. “We’ll do utmost to make our dream come true.”
Inside track - Oleksandr Sereda (Ukrainian Football 1894)
"Ukraine have five main strengths: Blokhin’s motivational skills and the respect he has among the players, physical preparation, very promising wide midfielders in Konoplyanka and Yarmolenko, vastly experienced players such as Shevchenko and Tymoschuk and, obviously, home advantage. The last aspect may sound banal but it proved to be a real driving force behind Ukraine’s impressive display against Germany and the last-ditch win over Austria after being reduced to ten men. But the back four is a worry. Dmytro Chyhrynskyi is injured, Taras Mykhalyk has just returned to full fitness after a long spell out, Yaroslav Rakytskyi’s form has not been very consistent this season and Oleksandr Kucher is inexperienced. It’s unclear who will be a full-back, while the three best goalkeepers – Oleksandr Rybka, Andriy Dykan and Oleksandr Shovkovskyi - are all out.
Any other business
Footballs first arrived in Donetsk, where England will play two of their matches, thanks to a Welshman, John Hughes, who founded an ironworks. The settlement that grew up around it was named after him, becoming known as Yuzovka. It then changed its name to Stalino before finally in 1963 taking on the name Donetsk.
1 Maxym Koval, 12 Andriy Pyatov, 23 Olexandr Goryainov
2 Yevhen Selin, 3 Yevhen Khacheridi, 5 Olexandr Kucher, 13 Vyacheslav Shevchuk, 17 Taras Mikhalik, 20 Yaroslav Rakitskiy, 21 Bohdan Butko
4 Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, 6 Denys Garmash, 8 Olexandr Aliyev, 9 Oleh Gusev, 11 Andriy Yarmolenko, 14 Ruslan Rotan, 18 Serhiy Nazarenko, 19 Yevhen Konoplyanka
7 Andriy Shevchenko, 10 Andriy Voronin, 15 Artem Milevskiy, 16 Yevhen Seleznyov, 22 Marko Dević