Ukraine youngsters looking on bright side

EURO2016.com caught up with Viktor Kovalenko, 20, and Olexandr Zinchenko, 19, two of Ukraine's brightest stars who took their bow in a major finals in the 2-0 defeat by Germany.

Olexandr Zinchenko and Viktor Kovlenko (Ukraine)

EURO2016.com: How frustrating was the loss to Germany

Viktor Kovalenko: The team are disappointed but we played against the world champions. We had a number of chances, unfortunately we didn't take them. For most of the game we struggled to get the ball, which made it so much harder.

Olexandr Zinchenko: We didn't play as we can, though the first half was really good. After the break we played with less intensity. On a personal level I'm not happy with my performance as I was supposed to strengthen the attack and try to change the game [from the bench].

EURO2016.com: Could you imagine six months ago that you would be playing at the EURO against the world champions?

Kovalenko: It was a very good season for me so I really hoped to play in a game of this size and importance – I'm really happy it happened.

Zinchenko: I was surprised even to make the finals squad, so now I have to prove the coaches made the right choice. There are at least two games left to do that.

EURO2016.com: How is morale after the defeat?

Kovalenko: We know we shouldn't give up, and we'll continue to work towards our remaining matches. Our aim is to get three points from the Northern Ireland game.

Zinchenko: We are keeping our heads up. Everyone has to analyse their own mistakes but also to take the positives.  

EURO2016.com: Will your tactics change against Northern Ireland?

Kovalenko: I think we have to play more of a possession game but also try to profit from counterattacking, which is our team's strength.

Zinchenko: We have found a way to break through defences. We have Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko, as well as other good attackers, so we are quite confident.

Germany v Ukraine - Group C - UEFA Euro 2016 A disappointed Artem Fedetskiy©Panoramic

EURO2016.com: Is the game against Northern Ireland a must-win match?

Kovalenko: If we only get a draw, it will be quite difficult to reach the round of 16, and I'm not even thinking about losing. We must get three points.

Zinchenko: Of course we will approach the game this way, because we are not satisfied with our position in the group.

EURO2016.com: Could you tell us about each other's strengths?

Kovalenko: Sasha [Zinchenko] always uses his brain. He always tries to think everything through in advance. 

Zinchenko: We played together for many years. He's very consistent, I can't remember a game when he hasn't stood out. He has always been one of the leaders. His best qualities? I would say his balance, shooting and vision.

EURO2016.com: You've been working with your childhood hero Andriy Shevchenko. How has it been? 

Kovalenko: Until now I'd only ever seen him on TV, and I was always a big fan. Now he's our coach and he helps us a lot. Sometimes in training he shows us how he used to score or how we should quickly dart in one direction or the other.

Zinchenko: We are always listening to him. Every piece of advice he gives could be useful to us, not only in this EURO but in the future. His praise can definitely motivate you and make you want to prove it on the pitch.

Shevchenko on Ukraine’s stars


Shevchenko on Kovalenko and Zinchenko ... 

Zinchenko is definitely a talented player but everything depends on his professionalism, desire and mentality. If he gets a chance, he has to show he is a cut above.

Kovalenko is another young player with great potential. His consistent displays for Shakhtar Donetsk gave us grounds for trusting him with a place in the national team. I'm sure he will show his quality in France.