Group D: Ukraine – No Definite Article

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The Back of the Net team continue their build-up to Euro 2012 with individual team profiles. Here, John Foster examines Group D's top seeds, co-hosts Ukraine…

An ageing squad is not expected to achieve much on the pitch, while off it, Ukraine has attracted criticism for scheduling the European Championships to clash with its 2012 Human Rights Abuse-a-rama. Protests at home have been muted, however, after a number of journalists who initially reported the story were violently mauled by government-sponsored bears.

Road to the finals
Ukraine qualified as co-hosts with Poland, after the Poles’ initial plan to co-host with Western Samoa was rejected by UEFA.

Tournament pedigree
This is the first time Ukraine will compete in a European Championships finals as an independent nation. Ukrainians comprised the majority of players in the USSR team that finished runners-up at Euro 88, but everyone knows the USSR is really just Russia.

Ukrainians are often stereotyped as resembling either former KGB men or impossibly leggy ice maidens, and platinum blonde Victoria’s Secret model Oleg Blokhin, 59, is no exception.

Men to watch
Dynamo Kyiv’s Andriy Yarmolenko will hope to avoid being overshadowed by legendary team-mate Andriy Shevchenko, by not standing next to him when the floodlights are on. Look out too for tall, fair-haired midfield leader Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, back in the side after finally proving he is not the same person as imprisoned ex-Prime Minister Yulia Tymoschenko, and subsequently recovering from a persistent bear-inflicted knee injury.

Did you know?
Ukraine is also known as The Ukraine, to distinguish it from the numerous counterfeit Ukraines that proliferated after the breakup of the USSR. One such ‘Ukraine’ managed to enter the qualifying tournament for USA 94, losing to Iceland and Hungary before being revealed as a bootleg team from China.

More from Back of the Net
Group A: Poland • Russia • Greece • Czech Republic
Group B: Netherlands
• Germany • Portugal • Denmark
Group C: Spain • Italy • Croatia • Republic of Ireland
Group D: Ukraine • England • France • Sweden