Twice runners-up, Ukraine have a fine UEFA Futsal EURO pedigree but they have recently failed to get beyond the last eight and are without their qualifying top scorer in Belgrade.
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Twice UEFA European Futsal Championship runners-up, Ukraine did not make it beyond the last eight in 2007, 2010, 2012 or 2014 – and injury has hit their hopes of doing so this time.
Oleksandr Kosenko's team looked impressive in qualifying with Mykola Bilotserkivets netting eight goals, including five against Belgium, making him competition top scorer. Injury has since ruled the Lokomotiv Kharkiv player out of the finals in Belgrade, although without him Ukraine performed strongly in December's FIFA Futsal World Cup qualification main round, including a 5-3 win against a Hungary side they will meet again in their opening game at this UEFA Futsal EURO.
While Ukraine have an impressive record against Hungary, also beating them in the UEFA Futsal EURO 2014 play-offs, they have fared less well against their second Group B opponents Spain with 12 straight defeats – among them, two friendly losses last year and a 2-1 golden-goal reverse in the 2001 final.
4 February: v Hungary, 21.00 (head to head P11 W7 D2 L2 F42 A26)
6 February: v Spain, 18.30 (head to head P12 W0 D0 L12 F10 A43)
- Key facts
Best performance: Runners-up (2001, 2003)
Qualifying top scorer: Mykola Bilotserkivets8
Players to watch: Denys Ovsyannikov, Dmytro Sorokin, Yevgen Rogachov
- Three questions: Oleksandr Kosenko, coach
What are your aims for February in Belgrade?
If we have a good day, and get into a good daily rhythm, we can be at least the equal of any team at the EURO – so anything is possible. One of our aims is playing with as few fouls and suspensions as possible. Also, to have all our players available. I know full well that this tournament will be a great promotion of futsal around Europe.
After three straight quarter-final exits, plus elimination in the group stage in 2007, is it time for Ukraine to advance further?
It will not be easy to get out of the group, though of course that is our aim. Progressing even further is also possible, because in recent knockout stages we have seen lots of very equal matches where small details decided the winner.
Mykola Bilotserkivets made headlines in qualifying – how much will you miss him in February?
He is out for months with a serious injury, so he is not coming to Belgrade. We have to find other solutions. More will be asked of our other forwards but it is almost impossible to completely replace such a quality player.