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Ukraine counting on freshness to go far

Published: Wednesday 13 June 2012, 19.12CET
Ukraine may lack the big names of Group D rivals France and England, but Boris Popov wonders if the co-hosts' players could gain an edge from having had less pitch action this season.
by Boris Popov
from Kyiv
 
Published: Wednesday 13 June 2012, 19.12CET

Ukraine counting on freshness to go far

Ukraine may lack the big names of Group D rivals France and England, but Boris Popov wonders if the co-hosts' players could gain an edge from having had less pitch action this season.

There is a popular theory among experts that players who shine during a domestic season leading into a major tournament invariably fail to match that form on the international stage. Those who missed large parts of the campaign or struggled to make an impact, on the other hand, are often then seen inspiring their compatriots to success at a UEFA European Championship and FIFA World Cup.

UEFA EURO 2012 has lent credence to that idea so far with Russia's Alan Dzagoev leading the goals race after a difficult season at PFC CSKA Moskva. In addition, Andriy Shevchenko scored twice in his first outing despite making only 16 league appearances in 2011/12.

Of course, I don't want to insist that this theory is universal, but could there be something to it? If so, it's worth noting that a number of Ukraine's players found themselves sidelined for large parts of the season and could boast superior energy levels to their French and English counterparts. Let's take a closer look, hoping both Laurent Blanc and Roy Hodgson are too busy to read my blogs.

©Getty Images

Andriy Shevchenko made 16 league appearances this season

Starting with the captain, Shevchenko, his 16 FC Dynamo Kyiv outings pale alongside the 34 of both Wayne Rooney and Karim Benzema. Although Rooney will have missed England's first two games by the time he faces the co-hosts on 19 June, he could still be carrying a heaviness in his legs from his Manchester United FC exploits that Shevchenko will be free from.

In defence, another Dynamo man, Taras Mikhalik, may have let most of the season pass him by, but I doubt he will allow any opposition forwards to do so as easily. With only seven games under his belt in 2011/12, Mikhalik is now champing at the bit ahead of Ukraine's next two Group D contests – and the same could be said of Yevhen Khacheridi after his 19 appearances for the same club. Meanwhile, Yevhen Seleznyov finished joint-top scorer in Ukraine from only 23 games and fellow forward Artem Milevskiy featured in 18.

Although I can't guarantee 100% that Ukraine will overcome Les Bleus and the Three Lions, I am quite sure the Synyo-Zhovti are starving for match action and will not give an inch without putting in maximum effort first. To put it another way, if France and England's players let their minds drift to well-deserved vacations later this summer, they could end up taking them earlier than planned.

Last updated: 23/06/12 9.12CET

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