Team focus: A mix of youth and experience could pay dividends for Ukraine in the Far East.
Eight years ago, Ukraine were the only one of the finalists in Spain who did not lose to the all-conquering Brazil drawing 2-2 to the eventual winners in the last eight. Gennadiy Lysenchuk is still in charge of the side and since then has twice led Ukraine to runners-up spot in the UEFA European Futsal Championship finals.
Lysenchuk is understandably expecting good things from his side in Chinese Taipei, and has high hopes for his blend of youth and experience. He said: "In choosing our potential squad, we have looked at many young players, including those who won gold at the student world championships." That triumph at last month’s 9th World University Futsal Championship 2004 in Spain showed there is a strong wave of Ukrainian talent coming through.
Lots to learn
The coach is well aware that some of his players may be playing on the biggest stage of all for the last time. "Gradually we are trying to renovate the team however, we included some experienced players that have competing at this level in the past. They are getting older so this tournament will probably be the last one for them. This will be an advantage for us as they'll do all their best to surprise the world in their last appearance. At the same time our young players will learn a lot from them."
They will have to learn fast as Ukraine have been paired with reigning world champions Spain in Group A, along with the hosts Chinese Taipei and Egypt. Acclimatisation will be important with the muggy conditions likely to favour all three of their hosts. Ukraine have taken this into account although have been hampered by the fact the Ukrainian league would continue until a week before the finals.
Good start needed
Lysenchuk has also had injuries to contend with having lost Vladimir Deinega and Oleksandr Kondratiuk. He was also hoping to avoid further problems when his team play a local club side three days before the start of the competition, when the duel with Spain opens their campaign. A positive result in that fixture would set the eastern Europeans well on their way.
The coach, who will be relying heavily as ever on lethal forward Serhiy Koridze, is confident his side can progress to the last eight. Once there, he knows anything can happen and with his team’s past pedigree, few would bet on them going all the way.
Olexiy Popov, Vasyl Sukhomlinov, Kostyantin Vlasenko, Fedir Pylypiv, Oleg Shaytanov, Ramis Mansurov, Georgi Melnikov, Vitaliy Nesteruk, Olexandr Kosenko, Vitaliy Brunko, Artem Kovalyov, Serhiy Sytin, Serhiy Koridze, Igor Moskvychov.