"The quality of football was on a par with the brilliance of the new arena," said Ukraine midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, after Kyiv's revamped Olympic Stadium opened on Friday.
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The first game staged at the renovated Olympic Stadium in Kyiv will live long in the memory of the 70,000 spectators who attended, as Ukraine and Germany shared an enthralling 3-3 draw at the UEFA EURO 2012 venue. But the players were equally awestruck by the impressive venue for next summer's UEFA EURO 2012 final.
After the final whistle, Ukraine President Victor Yanukovych paid tribute to the splendid new arena, which took three years to construct. "Today is a national holiday for Ukraine and the new stadium is a gift for everyone," he said of the venue that will host three group matches, a quarter-final and the UEFA EURO 2012 final itself.
"It is for the youngsters and the future champions growing up among them. The Olympic Stadium's successful renovation has proved an exemplary project for our country's image. I am sure Kyiv and all Ukraine will provide the best possible welcome for the visitors from many countries who are eager to witness next summer's European championship finals."
The home supporters were not the only ones inspired on a night when the hosts came close to securing their fifth victory against one of the favourites for next summer's tournament, Germany. Ukraine were twice two goals in front thanks to strikes by Andriy Yarmolenko, Yevgen Konoplyanka and Sergiy Nazarenko before Simon Rolfes and Thomas Müller added to Toni Kroos's first-half effort to spare the visitors from defeat.
"I am delighted with the Olympic Stadium," said Andriy Shevchenko. "It is very exciting to play here, the conditions are just fantastic. And the acoustics are absolutely incredible." It is a view with which Ukraine midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk concurred. "The players of both teams put on a spectacular match and the quality of football was on a par with the brilliance of the new arena."
"The stadium and the atmosphere here is a big plus," added Marko Dević, the Ukraine and FC Metalist Kharkiv forward. "This stadium deserves the final. The pitch was also of very good quality." Olexandr Rybka the Kyiv-born goalkeeper who moved away from the capital this summer after signing for FC Shakhtar Donetsk was also taken aback. "It is a great stadium with a fantastic atmosphere created by the crowd. If every match gets crowds like that it will definitely give us an extra impetus to win."
Joachim Löw was thinking along similar lines. "We put on a very strong attacking display and went looking for the win," said the Germany coach. "The reason we didn't was because the hosts played very well. But I am satisfied with this trip to Kyiv. I have seen the beautiful venue for the European Championship final and, hopefully, this experience will come in handy for us."
Located in the centre of Kyiv, the arena has been completely reconstructed with only the name and location linking it to its former incarnation, which was first built in 1923. Significant former events to be held at the venue include football matches from the 1980 Olympic Games.
Oleh Blokhin's side next inaugurate the newly-built Arena Lviv in another friendly match against Austria on 15 November.