Ukraine entered UEFA EURO 2012 Group D as underdogs in the shadow of France and England, and though the co-hosts did not manage to make it to the knockout stage, they cannot be accused of a lack of ambition or heart.
In a nutshell
The Synyo-Zhovti played attacking football, and while France and England proved too strong after their opening victory against Sweden, the team's fans will not feel cheated by the players' efforts. The unavailability of a string of high-profile goalkeepers and an injury to Andriy Shevchenko during the finals no doubt weakened Oleh Blokhin's squad. However, a lack of experience rather than a shortfall in desire was what probably told in the end. In addition, Ukraine dominated most of their matches territorially, but were able to score only in the first game, partly due to the excellence of Serhiy Nazarenko. Unfortunately, there was no one to support or replace him in the remaining two fixtures with Ukraine restricted to attacking exclusively down the flanks.
The squad's younger elements performed well. In fact, in addition to Shevchenko, it was the younger players who came in for the least criticism. Now, after gaining invaluable experience, individuals such as Yevhen Khacheridi, Yaroslav Rakitskiy, Yevhen Konoplyanka, Denys Garmash and Andriy Yarmolenko can be the backbone of a team which has the potential to achieve more than the current one.
Khacheridi had to deal with forwards such as Zlatan Ibrahimović, Wayne Rooney and Karim Benzema and, though Ukraine conceded goals in every game, it was hardly the fault of the Dynamo man. At 24, still relatively young for a defender, Khacheridi has time to improve and has all the attributes required to become one of Europe's best centre-backs.
Hope for the future
The uncompromising defensive midfielder Garmash did not play in the first two matches and – called into the starting XI against England – did not give Steven Gerrard any space. As a result, Ukraine dominated midfield.
Seven matches in Donetsk, no wins. Seven matches in Lviv, seven wins.
Ukraine v France: seven meetings, no wins.
"I am not ashamed of the team. Our team has colossal prospects."
Ukraine head coach Oleh Blokhin on his side after the match against England.
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