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
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.