Ukraine must bounce back after loss to France

After being booed for its lackluster performance in the

rain-soaked 2-0 loss to France, co-host Ukraine has one last chance

to get it all right and win back the hearts of its home crowd.

The daily Segodnya called Friday’s loss ”Rain and tears,”

adding ”The second miracle in a row didn’t happen” and

”Qualifying … is now in real doubt for us” despite the

much-acclaimed win over Sweden.

But beating England on Tuesday would send Ukraine to the Euro

2012 quarterfinals.

In a highly unlikely scenario where France loses to Sweden on at

least a four-goal difference, a draw would be enough for Ukraine to

advance with England.

Coach Oleg Blokhin led the team to the quarterfinals of its only

previous major championship – the 2006 World Cup. And the players

believe they can do it again.

”It’s possible to get a 1-0 win,” midfielder Anatoliy

Tymoshchuk said. ”We need to play more compactly, perhaps control

the ball more … and go forward on counterattacks.”

Striker Marko Devic said Ukraine came up short against France

because of their ”better technical skills, they were much better

with lots of short passes.”

Against England, however, he was expecting a different game.

”I think our coach knows how to beat them,” Devic said.

Blokhin knows his team’s weaknesses, with the defense as the

Achilles tendon. In 12 warmup matches before the European

Championship, Ukraine conceded 23 goals. Because of a lack of

alternatives, Blokhin is using Dynamo Kiev midfielder Oleh Gusev as

a right back.

After the France match, the coach hinted that ”it has to

change” as Ukraine failed to clear the ball from the area and was

giving away too many scoring opportunities.

France coach Laurent Blanc explained how he prepared his team to

take advantage from Ukraine’s defensive worries.

”They always regroup in the middle and leave a lot of space on

the flanks,” said Blanc, who for that reason fielded Jeremy Menez

instead of Patrice Evra.

”Menez is a quick player. He played against Gusev, who was

leaving a lot of space,” Blanc said. ”Ukraine likes to play

football but they have some imbalances in defense.”

England, helped by the return of striker Wayne Rooney, will be

keen to hit Ukraine at its weakest spot as well.

If Ukraine is to extend its presence in the championship, it not

only has to overcome England, but also its poor record at the

Donbass Arena in what could be veteran striker’s Andriy

Shevchenko’s last international game.

The stadium hasn’t been a lucky ground for the national team,

which has failed to win any of its matches here. Ukraine lost 1-0

to Greece in World Cup qualifying shortly after the stadium opened

in 2009. It then drew 1-1 with the Netherlands in 2010 and was

outscored 4-1 by France a year ago in friendly matches.