The mood in Ukraine has veered from doom and gloom to jubilation after the win against Sweden, but don't expect Oleh Blokhin to crack open any champagne. "It's too early for euphoria. We've just won one match, and if we lose both our following games, we might as well wash that first win down the drain. I had a serious discussion with the players after [the match against] Sweden."
Luckily the players, certainly the veterans among the squad, understand clearly the hangover that over-celebrating can bring. As centre-back Taras Mikhalik told me: "We were over the moon for two or three hours after the match, but then we came down to earth again. We've been mentally preparing for the game against France ever since."
Before leaving for Donetsk, the Synyo-Zhivti had another open training at Kyiv's Lobanovskiy Stadium, witnessed by a few thousand supporters. If you remember, I wrote previously about the zozulica (a traditional clay whistle) presented to Andriy Shevchenko before the match against Sweden. It is a matter of debate whether it was the zozulica's magical powers or Shevchenko's own skill which helped him score his two goals, but the fans are certain – they must continue the tradition.
This time, the skills of another veteran forward, Andriy Voronin, have been reinforced with another weapon – literally. He was given a bulawa, a sort of spiked mace invented in the Kievan Rus kingdom in the early medieval era, and now one of the symbols of Ukrainian presidential power.
Actually, the Ukrainian supporters – aside from their choice of gifts – have also made the correct choice of players. While it was Shevchenko who needed a boost before the first game, now Voronin could be the man to make the difference. The France defenders could – consciously or not – be trapped into marking Shevchenko, forgetting Voronin is a superb forward who is ready to punish any defence if they don't keep a close eye on him.
He was not at his best for FC Dinamo Moskva this spring, but is the very same forward who was voted the 2011 Ukrainian Player of the Year. At 32, he has a huge amount of experience and – given this may be his last EURO – he will give everything to make Les Bleus blue and leave his name in Ukrainian football history along with that of Shevchenko.
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