The Ukrainian media, unsurprisingly, are gushing with praise for the co-hosts the day after their Andriy Shevchenko-inspired victory against Sweden, who were regarded as the opponents Oleh Blokhin's team had to beat in a section also containing England and France.
"Beginning well is half the battle," insisted Sport-Express which – like all the other papers – hailed the country's captain fantastic. "For Shevchenko this European Championship is not only the first and the last, but can also become his testimonial."
A pleasant surprise for the home supporters was the attacking mindset and the amount of possession enjoyed by the Synyo-Zhovti (Blue and Yellows). Boss Blokhin said: "We turned the match around because we controlled the game. We were faster and more technical. This was a performance I more or less expected from my team. We still made tactical mistakes and we did not have enough time to prepare. We can still play better. Now we have three points, and we will alter things tactically for the matches to come."
The right side is Ukraine's strongest suit. Three FC Dynamo Kyiv players – Oleh Gusev, Andriy Yarmolenko and Andriy Shevchenko – are capable of getting on top of any opposition. While their role is well recognised, I would like to sing the praises of Serhiy Nazarenko, the often undervalued SC Tavriya Simferopol midfielder, who played the key role linking defence and attack yesterday. Nazarenko's smart passing tore open the Sweden defence and he also went close to scoring with a free-kick.
Nazarenko, 32, has been criticised in the past for a perceived lack of defensive nous, but against Sweden he seemed to be everywhere. This is corroborated by the official statistics, which identify the No18 as having covered more distance than anybody on the pitch.
Having spent his entire professional career at FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk, Nazarenko signed for Tavriya Simferopol at the start of last season and is currently in the form of his life. To my mind he's the man capable of leading Ukraine to the quarter-finals and beyond.
Aside from his passing and shooting abilities, Serhiy is considered one of the top set-piece practitioners operating in Ukrainian football, and his talent at delivering a mean dead ball is prized now more than ever. France and England should keep a close watch on the bald midfielder, for they ignore him at their peril.
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