To some casual observers, Ukraine might be seen as being stuck in the Group B mire already. Defeated by the Czech Republic on Sunday, they now must beat England on Wednesday to get back on track in this UEFA European Under-21 Championship, with another hard test against highly-fancied Spain to follow.
But that is not how playmaker Yevhen Konoplyanka sees it. There is a Russian expression 'Don't let your nose go down' and his was nowhere near the floor before training on Tuesday as he urged his team-mates to show no fear against Stuart Pearce's side in Herning, pointing out that they were no tougher a prospect than the Czechs.
The 21-year-old from FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk said: "Even before the game I said they [Czech Republic] were one of the strongest teams here. I am not any more afraid of Spain and England than I was of the Czechs." And if he could name no weaknesses in England's game, the same applied to the other teams in this tough-looking section. "I don't see weak points in this group at all. There are very good teams involved."
The key for the Ukrainians, he added, is to make sure they take the game to their opponents. "
We need to beat England with our attacking game," said Konoplyanka who operated directly behind striker Roman Zozulya in a 4-2-3-1 formation on Sunday. They will want to be more potent than they were in Viborg where it took them 87 minutes before substitute Maxym Biliy narrowed the deficit after the Czechs had struck twice early in the second half.
Konoplyanka, who has already won one senior cap and is considered one of Ukraine's most promising young talents, added that Ukraine must also cut out the lapses in concentration that cost them dear against the Czechs. "The coach [Pavlo Yakovenko] saw the mistakes and told us where we went wrong. There were some passages of the game where our concentration could have been better.
We were disappointed but we tried not to get down, the coach got us together and told us to keep our heads up as there are two games left in which to prove our worth."
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