Ukraine ought to have fortune on their side at UEFA EURO 2012 after Andriy Shevchenko was presented with a hefty lucky charm in the form of a zozulica – a traditional clay whistle shaped like a bird – weighing 10kg.
Not usually anything near as heavy, zozulicas are used both as instruments and talismans designed to ward off evil spirits. With a history dating back as far as 7,000 years, they are associated with the Trypillian culture which flourished in what is now modern-day Ukraine.
The question many fans will inevitably be asking is whether the zozulica will have the same effect on UEFA EURO 2012 that the vuvuzela did at the 2010 FIFA World Cup. Let me reassure visiting supporters – in contrast to the mass-produced vuvzelas, the zozulica is made from clay in relatively small quantities and mostly as a miniature amulet to wear as a necklace. Even if a few oversize zozulicas make it to the stadium, they are unlikely to drown out the noise generated by the crowd.
Whether you believe in the magical properties of the zozulica or not, one thing is certain: no one in the Ukraine squad is either injured or ill. In fact, coach Oleh Blokhin has promised that his charges are in excellent physical shape, citing as an example their strong finishes in recent friendlies with Austria and Turkey. Instead he feels their psychological condition will prove more telling during the tournament, and while he revealed that some joined up with the squad in low spirits after tough club seasons, he also explained that they are now high on confidence and ready to face Sweden on Monday.
As for who will make his starting XI, that is no easy task to predict. Famously hard to read as a player, the former Ballon d'Or winner has remained just as difficult to second-guess since switching to the dugout.
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