It wasn’t until 1992, that Ukraine played their first game as an independent nation – where they were beaten 3-1 by Hungary – having broken away from the Soviet Union. Since 1992, Ukraine have only played at one major international tournament in that time – the 2006 World Cup where they managed to reach the quarter-final. However, this will be Ukraine’s first ever appearance at a European Championship having qualified automatically as co-hosts.
Since Oleg Blokhin – who is back for his second term as national teach coach – led Ukraine to the World Cup in 2006 – the national team went through 3 coaches: Alexei Nikhailchenko, Myron Markevych and Yuriy Kalitvinstev before Blokhin returned in April last year. Obviously, having qualified automatically, Ukraine have not had any competitive fixtures over the past two years.
After a disasterous run, which saw four consecutive defeats to France, Sweden, Uruguay and Czech Republic. Ukraine have been on a much more positive run as of late, though and have suffered just one defeat in their last 7 games – winning five of those games and drawing the other, which was an impressive 3-3 draw to tournament favourties, Germany.
Squad-wise, the vast majority of the squad ply their trade in the home league, all bar Ukraine’s most-capped player, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk of Bayern Munich and Andriy Voronin of Dynamo Moscow. At 35, Andriy Shevchenko is still a mainstay in the squad for his 17th year as national team player. Shevchenko is also Ukraine’s record-goalscorer with 46 international goals. Andriy Voronin, a name that Liverpool fans will probably have purged from their memories is also in the final-23 man squad, unfortunately, his goal record of just 8 in 72 apperances leaves a lot to be desired. Hailed as the new Shevchenko, Andriy Yarmolenko has scored 8 goals in 20 apperances, putting him level with Voronin and is one to watch this summer for Ukraine.
While co-hosts Poland are the lowest-ranked team at Euro 2012 according to FIFA rankings, Ukraine are the second lowest-ranked at the tournament, but they will certainly have home support on their side which should work to their advantage. They might just be a surprise package in Group D should England, France or Sweden slip-up.
Fixtures: Ukraine vs. Sweden (June, 11th), Ukraine vs. France (June, 15th) and Ukraine vs. England (June 19th)