TO say preparations haven’t gone as hoped for the Ukrainians would be an understatement.
There has been talk of a possible Shakhtar/Dynamo Kiev divide in the squad; they are on their fourth coach in two years, and all three regular squad goalkeepers are injured for the finals. The hope is that coach Oleg Blokhin will able to work the same magic as he did at the 2006 world cup and get Ukraine into the quarters.
A Ballon d’Or winner in 1975 Oleg Blokhin is in his second spell as Ukraine boss where he previously reached the 2006 world cup quarter finals. It’s recognised that if Blokhin is to repeat that success again then he will have to use all of his motivational skills to unite a team that appears divdided by club loyalties.
With his main job being to win the ball back from the opposition, Bayern Munich midfielder Anatoliy Tymoschuk will look to sit in front of the back four and protect a defence without a first choice centre back or any first choice goalkeepers. The record Ukrainian cap holder should also be fresh for the tournament after being used sparingly by Bayern throughout the season.
One to watch
A graduate from the Dynamo Kiev academy attacker Andriy Yarmolenko has already been hailed as ‘the new Shevchenko’. The 22 year old player will look to use his pace on the left wing and Ukraine hopes a goal threat too, having already scored 7 goals at international level.
Why they could have a good tournament...
Both Blokhin’s ability to motivate and great home support will give the host nation a big physiological boost going into the tournament where they have a real chance of starting it well against, on paper looks like their weakest opposition, Sweden. They still have Andriy Shevchenko too, and while the 35 year old is at nearing the end of his career he’ll play a more withdrawn role and look to link up with the likes of Yarmolenko. And, as Man City found out last season the former Ballon d’Or winner is still capable of a moment of magic.
Why they could have a bad tournament...
As mentioned previously all 3 first choice goalkeepers have been ruled out and so has ex Barcelona defender Dmytro Chygrynski leaving their defence looking very vulnerable. They’ll also be coming up against teams in the group stages who can all boast at least one world class forward in Karim Benzema, Zlatan Ibrahimovic and a returning Wayne Rooney. There’s also the flip side to having home support if the pressure becomes too great.