"Finally, it is about to take place and we are ready for it," says the Ukraine great as he gears up for his first EURO as a coach.
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The national team’s all-time top scorer with 48 goals, Andriy Shevchenko’s playing experience could be a huge bonus as he leads Ukraine in a final tournament for the first time as coach.
The 44-year-old captained Ukraine at the 2006 FIFA World Cup and led the line during UEFA EURO 2012, in addition to being a UEFA Champions League-winning striker with AC Milan. Ukraine's coach since 2016, he now wants to share the benefit of his wisdom with the younger players in the team at UEFA EURO 2020 and to stick to his footballing principles.
On the extra year waiting for the EURO
It just gave us time to experiment because, for a tournament like this, a one-year wait is a long time. The team has changed – we’ve brought in new players. We’ve definitely been waiting. Of course, this whole situation with COVID has seriously affected the whole world, and as much as possible has been done to ensure sport can continue.
It’s been really positive that fans have been able to see all the planned events go ahead and that UEFA has managed to complete all planned tournaments. It was a positive thing, despite the fact the EURO in 2020 was postponed. That was the right thing to do. Finally, it is about to take place and we are ready.
On Group C opponents Netherlands, Austria and North Macedonia
The main task for the team is to go through the group stage. We understand that we will have to play against very strong teams and that the Netherlands are one of the favourites. Like our team, Austria also played well during the qualifiers and they have had strong players on the field during recent matches. Austria have a certain style of play, they stick to it, and this style helps them get results.
North Macedonia are also a solid team. Moreover, they won in Germany in the European Qualifiers, which shows they are a side to be reckoned with. They are a team of good footballers who can always produce a good game.
On Ukraine’s strong points
The main thing is that we have a certain style we are playing and we will not change that. We have our own principles which we abide by. So we might have an opportunity to play 4-3-3 or, for example, 3-5-2, but our own principles will not change.
We have key people, starting from our goalkeeper [Andriy] Pyatov, and then, going up each line, there are certain players who already have experience. Without question, I believe [Ruslan] Malinovskyi, [Oleksandr] Zinchenko and [Andriy] Yarmolenko are top-level players. Malinovskyi had a very good season at Atalanta. Zinchenko had a great season with Manchester City and was close to winning the Champions League. It’s very important that these players step up to the game, both in a good psychological state and in their physical condition.
On his first major finals as a coach
As a player, I had a taste of big tournaments such as the EURO and the World Cup. That’s why I think it will be one great celebration, both for the players and for the fans, of course. The younger players, who do not have such experience, will listen very carefully to what I tell them.
Simply being at such tournaments is a great experience in itself. Feeling the atmosphere, being in the team, understanding the meaning of the important games. Small details play a really important part in these tournaments. If every young footballer can pinpoint the importance of these small details for himself, they will be experiencing something really useful for them in the future.