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Shevchenko assisted Ukraine could spring Group C surprise at Euro 2016

Lee Gormley | April 18, 2016

Ukraine hoping for strong Euro showing

Ukraine finally ended their long-standing play-off hoodoo to secure a spot at Euro 2016 with their success against Slovenia over two legs, having failed to progress via that route in their previous four ties for major international tournaments.

Slovenia Ukraine Euro Soccer

The Ukrainians endured play-off heartache in attempting to reach all of Euro 2000 and the 2002, 2010 and 2014 World Cups, though they performed gallantly in their latest successful quest, finishing third in qualifying Group C behind reining champions Spain and Slovakia.

Guided by consistent coach Mykhaylo Fomenko, and assisted by national hero Andriy Shevchenko, the Yellow-Blue nation will look to better their previous performances at the European Championships, having never gone beyond the group stages.

They will, however, face a tough task in doing so, with world champions Germany and dangerous outfit Poland standing in their way in Group C, alongside a buoyed Northern Ireland, but Ukraine are 13/2 with Coral to progress to the knockout stage this summer via top spot in their standings.

Sheva can help nation’s efforts

Fomenko, now 67 years of age, has impressed since taking charge of Ukraine back in 2012, winning 20 of his 30 games as boss so far, having previously made a name for himself with one of the country’s top clubs Dynamo Kiev.

Recently, the head coach’s former assistant Olexandr Zavarov saw his contract end, with Ukraine’s all-time goalscorer Shevchenko instead taking his place alongside Fomenko in the dugout, a move could prove to be a boost to their aspirations this upcoming summer.

Soccer - UEFA Euro 2012 - Group D - England v Ukraine - Donbass Arena

The latter 39-year-old retired after his nation’s exit from Euro 2012, having struck 48 times in 111 international outings, and the 2004 Ballon d’Or winner is hoping to make an impact after learning from some world class managers.

“After almost four years on vacation, I am coming back to big football, as a coach,” the former Ukraine captain said. “I worked with great coaches like Valery Lobanovskyi, Carlo Ancelotti, Jose Mourinho and got a huge experience.

“Coaching courses helped me to shape up my ideas and determine my own vision of football. Hope, this will help me in the future.”

“I give a solid good grade…”

Shevchenko was on the sideline for Ukraine’s warm-up friendly against Wales and was full of praise for the players, who are 6/1 to open their Euro 2016 account with a win over 2014 World Cup champions Germany.

“I give a solid good grade. For the compactness of their game, for their motivation,” stated Shevchenko, after the 1-0 triumph over Chris Coleman’s men.

Ukraine v Wales - International Friendly - NSC Olimpiyskiy

“It’s always pleasant to win. Perhaps in some moments we did not succeed in launching quick counter-attacks and the ball possession was not as good as we would like it to be, but the team played very compactly, especially in the second-half.”

“The coaching staff was pleased with his results. We did not have a key player in that position. We decided to shift Garmash to the wing, while Kovalenko was moved up.

“Both Garmash and Kovalenko played very well in this combination. There were some interesting attacks that could develop much better but this was our first trial game.”

Star man Yarmolenko key to success

Andriy Yarmolenko was the man to inspire Ukraine to victory over Wales in that friendly outing, firing in the winner on home soil, and the Dynamo Kiev winger is set to play a key role in his nation’s Euro 2016 campaign.

Ukraine v Wales - International Friendly - NSC Olimpiyskiy

The Russian-born attacker has long been a reported Premier League target, with the likes of London outfits Arsenal and Tottenham having been linked with his signature in recent seasons, and national boss Fomenko has urged his crucial wideman to make a switch to England’s top-flight to bolster career prospects.

“If he is wanted by the top English clubs then yes, he can show his best in the Premier League and he must do this,” outlined Fomenko. “He is the leader of our team and leader of our squad.”

Liverpool were the latest top tier team to be linked with the dynamic Ukraine forward, and Jurgen Klopp’s men would undoubtedly benefit from his wide range of attacking abilities next season, while Arsene Wenger may also be tempted in the summer, though the player’s stock may rise with strong showings in France.

Konoplyanka can also inspire Ukraine

As well as Yarmolenko in their ranks, Ukraine can also call upon the mercurial Yevhen Konoplyanka, another supposed Premier League target, as the Sevilla attacker enjoys an impressive campaign for Sevilla in La Liga and the Europa League.

Slovenia Ukraine Euro Soccer

The 26-year-old could soon become part of a historic Bathtubs side, as they sit on the cusp of securing three successive Europa League successes but, after his club term is finished, he will be a vital component in Fomenko’s Ukrainian roster.

With such a talented set-up, also holding the likes of FC Kuban Krasnodar forward Yevhen Seleznyov, Stuttgart loanee Artem Kravets and Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Taras Stepanenko, Ukraine will be confident of earning a last 16 spot, and they are 13/10 to be eliminated at this stage.

The Ukrainians were unlucky not to earn an automatic place at Euro 2016 last year, but managed to banish their previous play-off agony to make it to France, where they will aim to cause a stir in Group C among main contenders Germany, a threatening Polish side and a hopeful Northern Ireland this summer.

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