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While UEFA EURO 2012 qualifying starts in Tallinn on Wednesday, co-hosts Ukraine – whose finals place is assured – step up their preparations against FIFA World Cup runners-up the Netherlands at Donetsk's Donbass Arena.
Ukraine began their build-up in May when they beat Lithuania 4-0, Romania 3-2 and Norway 1-0 but the visit of the Oranje presents Myron Markevich's side with a more difficult task. There is an added complication as Netherlands coach Bert van Marwijk has picked a completely new squad, save for World Cup reserve goalkeeper Michel Vorm.
"I knew nothing about the Netherlands' plans to use a reserve squad," said Markevich. "I expected them to rest some regulars but Bert van Marwijk decided not to take any players from the World Cup. It is a shame but that will not affect our preparations. We meet in Kyiv on 9 August and the next day fly to Donetsk."
Markevich, who has coached in a record 473 Ukrainian Premier-Liha matches, took over in February while retaining his role in charge of FC Metalist Kharkiv, where he was appointed in 2005 after two decades in management. Alongside Markevich's club-football experience, his assistant Yuriy Kalitvintsev has international know-how having led Ukraine to victory in last year's UEFA European Under-19 Championship on home soil.
The coaching team have opted for a blend of young hopefuls from the U21 set-up and familiar names headed by captain Andriy Shevchenko. The 33-year-old, already boasting 96 caps, has his sights firmly on 2012, having found a fresh lease of life at FC Dynamo Kyiv – scoring in all five of their Premier-Liha games this season.
Another long-time servant, 31-year-old Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, has been called up despite being restricted to bench duty at FC Bayern München, while FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk midfielder Yevhen Konoplyanka, FC Shakhtar Donetsk defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Dynamo striker Andriy Yarmolenko represent the next generation. "We have bright players in the squad," continued Markevich. "
They can beat anyone – I underline, anyone.
"The task of our coaching staff is to persuade them that they can always play to such a standard. In the first three matches we had some good moments but we are still feeling our way. We have many matches ahead so I believe we can build a national team that plays attacking attractive football which gets results."
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