Ukraine coach Oleh Blokhin told UEFA.com that the excitement of being one of the home sides at UEFA EURO 2012 is "like a tornado that could throw us in an unknown direction".
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Ukraine's build-up to UEFA EURO 2012 has been a fraught one, with goalkeepers Olexandr Shovkovskiy and Andriy Dykan ruled out through injuries and talisman Andriy Shevchenko not in peak condition. Friendly results have been dispiriting at times but coach Oleh Blokhin – the 1975 European Footballer of the Year while at FC Dynamo Kyiv – hopes his young side can rise above their problems and bring joy to their nation.
UEFA.com: You took charge of the team again in 2011. Have things gone the way you expected?
Oleh Blokhin: To some extent. I don't think we have had enough time because we haven't been able to play our best lineup in one game. I had to constantly change things around. However, no national coach is ever going to say that he had enough time to prepare, especially in the time between the end of the domestic leagues and before the European Championship. There is a lot to do, both physically and mentally, but overall we have done a lot of work and I'm satisfied.
UEFA.com: How important is your experience as a player and coach to your team?
Blokhin: If you haven't had some kind of career as a coach it's very difficult to talk about the work. The experience that I have helps me a lot. I think that it will help me now in the European Championship as well. We got to the World Cup finals for the first time [in 2006] and the mistakes we made then will help us now.
UEFA.com: Ukraine are the home team this time. Does that make a difference?
Blokhin: Yes, there is greater interest – we are getting more attention. The expectations are a lot higher, both for the fans and for the players. This doesn't help the team or the fans. So, we need to look at things realistically and tell the fans that we are not in the best situation. I know this team will fight, that it will try, but I really cannot predict how it will turn out.
UEFA.com: So being hosts is a tricky situation?
Blokhin: Yes, it's like a tornado that could throw us in an unknown direction. When I took over I immediately set the goal to win the tournament since we are the hosts. So let's split the winners' medal between Ukraine and Poland.
UEFA.com: There are a lot of young players in the Ukraine squad. Are they going to be ready for the demands of this competition?
Blokhin: To put it bluntly, I hope so. These guys have to face up to it, whether they like it or not. I said back in 2010 that it was time to revamp the national team. They may not win anything, but they're going to gain precious experience for the future, although of course I hope we go a long way in the competition.
UEFA.com: At 35, what can you expect of Andriy Shevchenko?
Blokhin: Expectations here are the same for everybody. It doesn't matter if you are Shevchenko, [Oleh] Gusev or new, as long as you are part of the team. We expect everyone to do their best, Shevchenko included.
UEFA.com: What are you hoping for from the Ukrainian fans?
Blokhin: Well, I hope they're going to believe in our national football team, and always get behind us.