Blokhin: Ukraine squad faces tough training

Ukrainian coach Oleh Blokhin took his 26-man Euro 2012 squad off to training camp in Turkey on Tuesday warning them they were in for a psychological shake-up to give them an outside chance of surviving elimination in the early stages.

This is going to be a holiday only for their wives, he said.

With a goalkeeping crisis that has forced Blokhin to call up two uncapped keepers and a creaking defence, Ukraine's national team is seen as having only a slim chance of getting through tough Group D matches against Sweden, England and France.

But with the right psychological preparation this was still a reality, he said.

"Euro 2012 can turn out in different ways. However you look at it, Ukraine's team has got younger and we have now essentially a new team," he said.

"Our task is to qualify from the group. In 2006 nobody believed we would qualify for the finals of the World Cup. Appetite comes with eating," he told reporters.

Blokhin, 59, a former European player of the year, led the national team to the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup.

"But if the lads think that this [training in Turkey] will be a stroll, they are mistaken. For their wives maybe. But for the lads it will be twice-daily training, morning and evenings," he was quoted as saying by Segodnya newspaper.

After training in Turkey, Ukraine, co-host of the Euro 2012 tournament with Poland, will play warm-ups against Estonia, Austria and Turkey before going into their opening Euro clash against Sweden in Kiev on June 11.

Blokhin has brought in young attackers like Andriy Yarmolenko of Dynamo Kiev and Yevhen Konoplyanka of Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk to boost Ukraine's striking power.

Veteran striker Andriy Shevchenko also says he is fit enough to turn out for his swansong in the national team, though Blokhin still has to make a final decision over the 35-year-old, an icon of Ukrainian football.

"I can say one thing: some footballers have come along who are forcing us trainers to consider more attacking play," Blokhin told reporters.

But he said that, apart from his goalkeeping nightmare, the defence generally was a major preoccupation. "The situation in defence has not got any better. It's good that [Yaroslav] Rakitsky and [Oleksandr] Kucher are scoring goals," he said referring to their club form.

"But matches against the leading teams of Europe will not allow two flank defenders to play in the other half of the pitch. They are going to have to look after the defence," Blokhin said.

He acknowledged that Ukraine looked in good shape in midfield, but felt concerns here too.

"How the midfield plays is how the whole team plays. And things are not so smooth here either. I have concerns. Touch wood that injuries do not make the situation worse," he said.