Ukraine must improve at Euro 2012, says Blokhin

Ukraine must improve at Euro 2012, says Blokhin

Published Jun. 12, 2012 12:06 p.m. ET

Germany had its so-called ''Summer Fairy Tale'' at the 2006 World Cup. Ukraine has written the first chapter of its own version at the European Championship.

Regarded as an outsider before the tournament, the co-host came from a goal down to beat Sweden 2-1 in its opening game Monday to give the team a chance of advancing from Group D, which also includes France and England.

Germany started with moderate hopes in its home tournament six years ago and almost reached the final, losing to Italy in extra time in a gripping last-four match.

Yet, rather than simply bask in the achievements of his team, Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin said his players need to improve from the Sweden game before they can start even thinking about matching Germany's feat.


''We still need to analyze our mistakes,'' Blokhin said. ''Near the end of the match, we didn't play well. In the end, it was not only the defense's fault but the whole team's fault as they did not execute my strategy ... It was quite a mess.''

Ukraine lost its grip on the match in the closing minutes and narrowly escaped a late equalizer as Sweden missed a handful of chances.

''We were under psychological pressure to keep the score the same,'' he said. ''It's hard to play when you're that nervous.''

Veteran striker Andriy Voronin smiled after hearing his coach's criticism.

''Blokhin hasn't once been happy, even with our best games,'' Voronin said. ''He always shows us our mistakes so that we don't repeat them.''

However, Voronin acknowledged that Ukraine sat back too much after Andriy Shevchenko's double turned the game around by the 62nd minute.

''At the end, we were perhaps a little frightened,'' he said. ''That's why the Swedes had more chances. But we managed to control their team's leader (Zlatan Ibrahimovic) most of the time.''

When Germany pulled off its stunning run at the World Cup, the team was roared on by the support of the millions of fans who celebrated a monthlong feast of football across the country. It was later referred to as the ''Summer Fairy Tale.''

Voronin said his team is going to need the help of the Ukrainian fans as much as Germany did then.

''This is a victory for them, for our whole country,'' the Dynamo Moscow forward said. ''We expect the same support in Donetsk.''

France is next up for Ukraine and Laurent Blanc's side showed glimpses of class in a 1-1 draw with England in their first match.

''We knew France had drawn with England so we knew that a victory would make us first in the group,'' defensive midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk said. ''There are tough games ahead and we have to prepare for them in the same way we did for the Sweden match.''