Co-host Ukraine in dreamland after Euro 2012 win
Car horns blared in Ukraine, fans chanted in the streets and newspapers glorified Andriy Shevchenko for the team's comeback 2-1 win against Sweden.
The 35-year-old Shevchenko scored both goals after Ukraine was down 1-0 to give the co-host a perfect start to the European Championship. Ukraine had been considered the underdog in Group D, but is now top after favorites France and England drew 1-1 in Monday's early match.
Shevchenko's performance, reminiscent of his glory days, increased his status as a national icon.
''SHEVAAAAA! UKRAINAAA!'' screamed the front page of Segodnya, one of the country's top-telling tabloids, showing a photograph of Shevchenko cheering and clenching his fists.
''There it is! What we wanted, what seemed like a dream became reality,'' the newspaper wrote. ''Ukraine started with a win. We're the group leaders! It's going to get tougher, but that's later.''
Many worried that the local interest in the tournament would die out quickly if Ukraine got off to a poor start.
Instead, the party is likely to only get bigger.
Several hours after the game, hundreds of fans draped in the national team's yellow and blue colors thronged in the streets of Kiev and downtown bars chanting ''Ukra-ina, Ukra-ina,'' and pumping fists and waving flags from car windows.
Ukraine still has two tough games against France and England coming up, but has the early edge. And Shevchenko, of course, provided the perfect story line.
Dismissed by many as too old and too slow, ''Sheva'' showed off his scorer's instinct in the area by netting two great headers in the second half, after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had given Sweden the lead.
They were the type of goals he scored routinely for Milan in his prime, but the veteran is now playing for Dynamo Kiev and had not put in a performance like that on the international stage for several years.
''The main veteran of our team was the principal hero of today's game,'' popular daily Fakty said.
Associated Press writer James Marson contributed to this report.