Serhiy Rebrov and Andriy Shevchenko were one of the most feared strike pairings in the business. Now an assistant coach at FC Dynamo Kyiv, Rebrov – in tandem with a young, fearless Shevchenko – inspired the club to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals in 1999.
Consequently, there will have been few people as pleased as Rebrov when his former team-mate scored twice in Ukraine's UEFA EURO 2012 opener against Sweden. In this exclusive interview with UEFA.com, Rebrov, who registered 15 goals in 75 outings for the Synyo-Zhovti, says the nation's favourite son still has a lot to offer, looks ahead to the co-hosts' encounter with England and reveals what makes coach Oleh Blokhin the success he is.
UEFA.com: What has changed in Shevchenko's game since the period you played together?
Rebrov: Nothing has changed – he has just become more experienced. He does some things differently to how he used to. He has become more mature. His experience really helps the national team. When we were 1-0 behind [against Sweden] he created two opportunities for himself and managed to score two goals, which a forward of his class should do.
UEFA.com: You and him were a pairing in the national team for many years. Is it difficult for him now given that his strike partner is prone to changing?
Rebrov: Ukraine use slightly different tactics to when the two of us played up front. Now it's more common to play with one striker. I don't think this is a problem because Dynamo and the national team have good players. Andriy Voronin is used now and he's no worse a partner than I used to be. At Dynamo he has also good partners with whom he can comfortably play.
UEFA.com: After the Sweden match there were a lot of headlines saying that Shevchenko is 'back'. Do you agree?
Rebrov: Unfortunately, in Ukraine people think that if you are over 30 you should stop playing. They have been saying it about Andriy for the past few years but every time he has proven otherwise.
This season, and in other seasons, he has shown that it's still too early to write him off. He is a professional, he always does his best. This game showed it. I know he has been working hard to be ready for EURO and the first game showed that it was not in vain. He is a real leader and a captain.
UEFA.com: What are your impressions of the tournament so far, particularly the atmosphere?
Serhiy Rebrov: I can only compare it to the atmosphere at the World Cup in 2006. Here, at home, I go to the stadium and feel that it's a big holiday, not only for the Ukrainian supporters but also for the foreign fans who have come to watch EURO. Our start was very good because the team won. That was important not just from a football point of view, but also for the fans.
UEFA.com: As someone who played in the national team under Oleh Blokhin at the 2006 FIFA World Cup, what is his secret and how does he succeed in uniting players?
Rebrov: He's a very ambitious person. I don't think he is particularly close to any of the players – some play, some don't – but all of them need to remember that this is the national team. On the pitch you need to give your very best.
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