Ukraine head to Euros with youth and experience


Andriy Yarmolenko will be the danger man for Ukraine at Euro 2016. (Efrem Lukatsky/AP)

After an emotional Euro 2012 as one of the two host countries, Ukraine is back at the European Championship. Armed with a well-balanced squad containing youth and experience, the Yellow-Blue will aim to surprise in a group containing the current world champions.

Goalkeepers: Andriy Pyatov (Shakhtar), Denys Boyko (Besiktas), Mykyta Shevchenko (Zorya).
Defenders: Evhen Khacheridi (Dynamo Kiev), Bohdan Butko (Amkar), Artem Fedetskyi (Dnipro), Oleksandr Karavaev (Zorya), Oleksandr Kucher (Shakhtar), Yaroslav Rakytskyi (Shakhtar), Vyacheslav Shevchuk (Shakhtar).
Midfielders: Serhiy Rybalka (Dynamo Kiev), Denys Garmash (Dynamo Kiev), Serhiy Sydorchuk (Dynamo Kiev), Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kiev), Evhen Konoplyanka (Sevilla), Ruslan Rotan (Dnipro), Taras Stepanenko (Shakhtar), Viktor Kovalenko (Shakhtar), Anatolyi Tumoschuk (Kairat), Oleksandr Zinchenko (UFA).
Forwards: Roman Zozylya (Dnipro), Pylyp Budkivskyi (Zorya), Evhen Seleznyov (Shakhtar).

Following Euro 2012, Ukraine was apparently interested in hiring Harry Redknapp and Sven Goran Eriksson as its manager. However, both of them rejected the offer, which led to former Dynamo Kyiv player and coach Mykhaylo Fomenko taking the job. The 67-year-old guided the team to the 2014 World Cup qualifying playoffs, where it lost to France. That performance was enough for the Ukrainian federation to extend Fomenko’s deal, which has clearly paid off.

4-2-3-1 – (GK) Pyatov – (D) Shevchuk, Kucher, Rakitskiy, Fedetskyi – (DM) Tymoshchuk, Stepanenko – (AM) Konoplyanka, Rotan, Yarmolenko – (F) Zozylya

MORE ON EURO 2016: Sportsnet has you covered with in-depth coverage of Euro 2016 in France, which runs from June 10 to July 10.

Match schedule || Group standings || Live scoreboard || Roster lists
Profiles: All 24 teams || History of Euro || Top 10 moments in Euro history

June 12: vs. Germany in Lille
June 16: vs. Northern Ireland in Lyon
June 21: vs. Poland in Marseille

Ukraine was en route to automatic qualification but had to settle for a playoff against Slovenia. A 2-0 win in the first leg at home all but sealed the Ukrainians spot at Euro 2016 as they eased to a 3-1 aggregate victory in the end.

Ukraine’s strength is clearly out wide. Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka are the two star players who will both start on the flanks. The team’s top scorer in qualifying was Yarmolenko with six goals, so both wingers will be relied upon to generate the offence, and, when the opportunities are present, to finish those chances themselves.

Experience is usually a valuable asset, especially for a team that has several players who have never participated at a major international tournament. However, Germany and Poland are very quick sides, which is bad news for the Ukrainians as they’ll surely have Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Ruslan Rotan in the starting XI. Fomenko’s conservative tactics could mask this issue, though.

Taras Stepanenko: Stepanenko could start beside Tymoshchuk in the heart of midfield. The 26-year-old has been one of Shakhtar’s most consistent players, especially in European competition. He was one of the top tacklers in the Europa League, per and will be tasked with marking opposing playmakers such as Mesut Ozil.

Andriy Yarmolenko: Tymoshchuk may be one of the most revered Ukrainian player of all-time, but Yarmolenko might be the face of the team these days. He’ll be the main player to watch for Ukraine at Euro 2016 with his scoring prowess, dribbling ability and vision.

Anatoliy Tymoshchuk: Ukraine’s most capped player. A defensive midfielder who can not only break up plays but start attacks with his passing range. Owns a powerful shot and is very comfortable on the ball.

Will Ukraine’s camp be calm? Stepanenko and Yarmolenko were both involved in a violent altercation during a match with their clubs, Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv. Fomenko downplayed any worries as the group will get together and be able to resolve any issues. However, chemistry is a big factor at international tournaments. There is little time to gain an understanding with one another, so if there is any friction, it could hinder the Ukrainians’ campaign.

Germany will be the favourite to win Group C. Ukraine has all of the capability to progress to the knockout stage as one of the top third-placed teams in the tournament. Ukraine’s conservative tactics and system could benefit the team as it will be able to grind out games. That is crucial in a tournament, so it would not be surprising to see the Ukrainians progressing past the round of 16.


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