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.