It is not always easy for teenagers to break into the first teams in the Ukrainian Premier League, but a pair of 18-year-olds are proving the exceptions to the rule.
FC Dynamo Kyiv striker Artem Kravets and FC Metalurh Zaporizhya midfielder Taras Stepanenko have both made the step up and more than justified their promotions. Stepanenko was the first to earn a place, Metalurh Zaporizhya's lack of funds meaning they turned to their youth set-up and gave Stepanenko, then 17, a debut against Dynamo. He made a good impression in the 3-1 defeat and was soon a regular both for his club and Ukraine Under-21s. A holding midfiedler able to slot into defence, Stepananko is a veteran of 25 first-team starts, and bigger clubs are already taking an interest.
Dynamo have probably Ukraine's best academy, but their graduates must compete with talented foreigners for positions in the senior side. One man up to the challenge has been Kravets, given only his second appearance in their last UEFA Champions League group stage against Sporting Clube de Portugal. In March he made his first league start and scored in a 4-0 defeat of FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, enough to make Yuri Semin give him another chance the following week versus Metalurh Zaporizhya, though he was not able to register against Stepanenko and company.
Kravets's speed and finishing has marked him out as a future star, and like the assured Stepanenko, another ambitious player from the Ukrainian provinces, has already been mentioned as a possible selection by national coach Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko. Having taken the helm at the age of 44, the former Dynamo player is himself proof that much can be achieved in Ukraine at a young age.
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