Stand-in coach Yuriy Kalitvintsev is keen for a competitive edge when UEFA EURO 2012 co-hosts Ukraine take on Italy in a friendly in Kyiv on Tuesday.
With no competitive matches until the start of the tournament in June next year, Kalitvintsev wants his side to play like they have something at stake. "The result will be the most important thing for us on Tuesday," said the 42-year-old. "
Our task is to establish the spine of the team and build squad cohesion as quickly as possible so the lads know each other's game when they take to the pitch."
Ukraine will be without forward Artem Milevskiy (broken hand) and centre-back Taras Mikhalik (knee), while defenders Dmytro Chygrynskiy and Igor Oshchypko are doubtful along with midfielders Ruslan Rotan, Yevhen Konoplyanka and Marko Dević. However, Kalitvintsev, who has been in temporary command since Myron Markevich resigned in August, will demand a top-class showing. "We have had plenty of time to work in training. We have had the chance to analyse how Italy play, master certain team moves and get the lads ready," he added.
The home side's record against Italy is hardly inspiring – they have lost all but one of their six games against the Azzurri, drawing the other, and have scored only twice in those fixtures. Their most high-profile meeting brought a 3-0 quarter-final defeat by Italy, the eventual winners, at the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
Ukraine's FC Bayern München midfielder, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, sounded a positive note, though, when he said: "They will come at us so we have to exploit our opportunities on the break.
I do not know what tactics Cesare Prandelli will go for, but we are playing at home and we will play to win. We have to end our negative streak against Italy."
According to former AC Milan player Andriy Shevchenko, Italy are not quite the team they were in 2006. "They have significantly refreshed the squad and have a lot of young players," the striker said, though with the caveat: "But Italy are always dangerous opponents. They are doing pretty well in qualifying. No doubt we are in for a very exciting match."
Excitement, however, is not enough for Ukraine, with FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk midfielder Rotan echoing his coach's competitive ethos. "The Italy game is a rehearsal for us," he said. "This is as close as we can get to the standard we will face at UEFA EURO 2012. I hope it will be a sell-out and that our fans will help us do our best."
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