Markevych has Dnipro fired up for Napoli
Thursday, May 7, 2015
Myron Markevych tells UEFA.com how belief has helped his FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk side move mountains, as the eternal underdogs prepare to take on SSC Napoli.
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Myron Markevych brought plenty of sparkle to previous editions of the UEFA Europa League with FC Metalist Kharkiv, but the 64-year-old says the mentality of his current side FC Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk has lifted them to a new level – and a first ever semi-final, against SSC Napoli.
UEFA.com: Did you ever imagine Dnipro would get this far in the UEFA Europa League?
Myron Markevych: I'd probably be fibbing if I said I did. Fortune smiled on us in the group stage, to be honest, and then somewhere along the line the squad settled and there were fewer injuries, so the team started to play. After the round of 32 tie against Olympiacos, I sensed we could go further.
UEFA.com: Since the start of the knockout phase, Dnipro have shown real character. How important has that been?
Markevych: Our mentality has been crucial. We've got six players who feature in the starting XI or on the bench for the Ukraine national team, and I always remind them of this – I tell them they are playing for their country and they should remember this, no matter who they're playing against, whether it is Olympiacos or Ajax.
In terms of our game, I've tried since I took charge to get my team to control possession and to play quickly on the counter. For the players we currently have, it's better for them to play as underdogs, especially against such difficult opponents. So that has been a factor.
UEFA.com: You coached a very exciting Metalist side in earlier editions of the UEFA Europa League; how does that team compare to your current Dnipro charges?
Markevych: At Metalist, we had a lot of Brazilians and Argentinians so the football was more attacking. That Metalist side also got to the quarter-finals – we played Sporting Lisbon [in the 2011/12 UEFA Europa League] and we didn't get through. The character of this Dnipro team is better; Metalist didn't have enough of this, though they were a very capable side.
UEFA.com: Yevhen Konoplyanka is being called the Ukrainian Lionel Messi. How do you rate him?
Markevych: Well, he's definitely one of the best players I've worked with. He's definitely the best in Ukraine at the moment, perhaps together with Dynamo Kyiv's Andriy Yarmolenko. Konoplyanka's main ability is, of course, his pace. Good control at pace is very important in modern football. Psychologically, he's very steady and he's one of the leaders in this team, so I think he has a good future.
UEFA.com: What are you expecting from the Napoli tie?
Markevych: We know perfectly well what's waiting for us in the semi-finals. Napoli are looking very good at the moment. Of course, it's going to be a very tough game, but we'll bring our own chips to the table. They are very decent in attack with Callejón, Hamšík and plenty more top-quality players. We will have to be prepared for that.
I accept that everyone is probably backing Napoli, but we'll try to give our all regardless. I'm delighted we have made it to the semi-finals and I don't want to stop at this point – I think the players feel the same.