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Ukraine's Donbass natives could be key

Published: Sunday 17 June 2012, 18.00CET
With Ukraine needing a first ever win in Donetsk against England on Tuesday, Boris Popov looks at the players whose local knowledge could help them reach the quarter-finals.
by Boris Popov
from Donetsk
 
Published: Sunday 17 June 2012, 18.00CET

Ukraine's Donbass natives could be key

With Ukraine needing a first ever win in Donetsk against England on Tuesday, Boris Popov looks at the players whose local knowledge could help them reach the quarter-finals.

The loss to France now behind them, Ukraine's players are gearing up to face England on Tuesday knowing that they must win to avoid watching the quarter-finals unfold on their televisions.

Oleh Blokhin's side have relocated to Donetsk and are desperate to end their barren run in the mining stronghold, where they have failed to earn a victory in six previous outings, including their defeat by Les Bleus on Friday. Perhaps they could do with a large helping of regional pride to go with any national sentiment – and with that in mind, I have been looking into where each of the players hails from.

If the prospect of featuring on home soil could give Blokhin's men extra zip and motivation, Donetsk native Bohdan Butko perhaps ought to start at right-back, while forward Yevhen Seleznyov – born in nearby Makiivka and attached to FC Shakhtar Donetsk – should maybe feature too. Both players have been left on the bench so far, but I am sure a 50,000-strong Donbass Arena crowd would not be shy in cheering on their fellow locals.

©Getty Images

Yevhen Seleznyov plays his club football for Shakhtar

Along with Seleznyov, five more players are on Shakhtar's books – and only two of them have appeared at UEFA EURO 2012 so far. Andriy Pyatov has contested both of Ukraine's games between the posts and new signing Marko Dević has 45 minutes under his belt, but defensive trio Yaroslav Rakitskiy, Vyacheslav Shevchuk and Olexandr Kucher have all had to watch from the sidelines.

What is surprising about the make-up of Blokhin's squad is that the relatively small Volhynia and Kirovohrad regions are the most strongly represented in terms of the players' roots with three representatives each. Kirovohrad does not even have its own top-flight team at the moment, while Volhynia boasts FC Volyn Lutsk, who finished six points above the relegation zone.

Meanwhile, two players began their football educations in Kyiv, including captain Andriy Shevchenko, with the regions of Lughnsk and Zaporizhia also supplying a pair of squad members. Dnipropetrovsk, Chernihiv, Sumy, Kharkiv, Odesa and Poltava contribute one player apiece.

Four more players were born outside Ukraine, and while Andriy Yarmolenko moved to Ukraine with his parents at the age of three, Olexandr Aliyev, Artem Milevskiy and Dević have their origins in Russia, Belarus and Serbia respectively. All will be desperate to defeat England, but perhaps Blokhin should look to his Donetsk contingent to help lift Ukraine's Donbass Arena curse.

Last updated: 24/06/12 13.43CET

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