Team Profile: Euro 2012 will be Ukraine’s debut at the European Championships – previous appearances were as part of a USSR team. As joint hosts and therefore automatic qualifiers, Ukraine have had to rely on a series of friendlies for their pre-tournament preparations. Results haven’t exactly been convincing, with a string of early losses, but recent matches have been more encouraging, including wins against Austria, Estonia and Bulgaria as well as an impressive 3-3 draw with Euro 2008 finalists Germany last November, when the Ukrainians actually led 3-1 at half time. No one would call them favourites, but with home advantage and the crowd egging them on, they could prove tricky opponents when they face Sweden, France and England in the group stage.
Coach: Oleh Blokhin
Having managed the national team between 2003 and 2007, legendary former striker Oleh Blokhin – Ukraine’s first ever Ballon d’Or winner – was reappointed manager in April 2011. His first stint at the national side’s helm had already proved a notable success, leading the team to the quarterfinals in Ukraine’s first appearance in the 2006 World Cup. With the country now one of the host nations, Blokhin will be hoping to replicate the success from six years ago – though this may well prove too tall an order.
Player to watch: Andriy Shevchenko
The former AC Milan and Chelsea striker may be approaching his 36th birthday, but with this surely his last major tournament, expect him to be eager to bow out from international football with a bang – provided he wins his race to be fit in time for the tournament. Shevchenko has scored 46 goals for the national team and captained the squad during their first ever World Cup appearance in 2006. At club level, Shevchenko scored 175 goals with Milan, making him the second most prolific player in the club’s history, though his subsequent spell with Chelsea saw age catch up with him, as he only managed to net ten times in two seasons. But if he does make it to the finals, he’ll undoubtedly be the team’s target man.
FIFA World Ranking: 49
UEFA Euro Ranking: 9
Number of Euro appearances: 4
Previous best: Qualifying round in 2008
Qualification: Automatic (host nation)
Form (friendlies): WLLLLWWDWL
Fixtures: June 11 vs. Sweden; June 15 vs. France; June 19 vs. England