Unrest in the east of the country has brought strange times for Ukrainian football. Shakhtar Donetsk have been playing ‘home’ games 750 miles away in Lviv, with Dynamo Kiev reclaiming top spot. Euro 2016 is a chance to unite the nation behind its football team.
Lesson from qualifying
Win the crunch matches. Ukraine’s success came down to a playoff against Slovenia, who knocked them out at the same stage ahead of Euro 2000. A 3-1 aggregate win ensured Ukraine came through a Euro qualifying campaign for the first time, having co-hosted the tournament in 2012.
The powerful Andriy Yarmolenko and the pacy Yevhen Konoplyanka, of Dynamo and Sevilla respectively, are dangerous wingers.
In Andriy Pyatov, they possess a goalkeeper with a great propensity for a clanger.
Most likely to…
Create a tense political grudge match. UEFA will be hoping the football gods don’t contrive to pit Ukraine and Russia together in the tournament’s Round of 16.
Least likely to…
Show any neighbourly warmth. Ukraine face Poland in a crucial clash that could potentially decide who will finish behind group favourites Germany.
What they hope will happen
Secure an easy passage into the last 16, where they’ll face Switzerland or Romania and advance to the quarter-finals.
What will happen
The final group match against Poland will do much to decide Ukraine’s fate. They could make it to the last 16 as one of the best third-placed teams before exiting.
Key player – Andriy Yarmolenko
The versatile forward must deliver if Ukraine are to make progress. Height, speed, skill and a thunderous shot make him fit for almost any team in world football. Good performances this summer could finally earn him a big move from Dynamo Kiev.
Manager – Mykhaylo Fomenko
After rumours that the Ukrainian authorities wanted either Sven-Goran Eriksson or Harry Redknapp, they stumbled upon the former Dynamo Kiev defender in 2012, and the 67-year-old has gone from strength to strength.
Q&A – Anatoliy Tymoshchuk
You were a key player when Ukraine reached the World Cup quarter-finals in 2006. Can this team achieve similar success?
That was the greatest period for our national team. The previous generation of players wrote these pages of history. I think our team can match those achievements.
What is the biggest strength of this Ukraine team?
Our team spirit, determination, commitment and character. We also have speed and technical ability. We achieve our aims by showing our best individual skills, while playing as a united team.
Can a good performance lift the mood of the Ukrainian people?
In this complicated situation, football unites the hearts of all Ukrainian fans and citizens. I hope it helps them to keep their heads high. We are focused on our games, but are also keeping in mind that results can inspire people and make them confident in our country’s future. We’re stepping onto the football field with an idea to fight for our country, for our citizens (and) for proud Ukrainians.
Fixtures and results
June 13, Germany. Lille, 3am
June 16, N. Ireland. Lyon, midnight
June 21, Poland. Marseille, midnight
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
vs Slovakia (H) 0-1
vs Belarus (A) 2-0
vs Macedonia (H) 1-0
vs Luxembourg (A) 3-0
vs Spain (A) 0-1
vs Luxembourg (H) 3-0
vs Belarus (H) 3-1
vs Slovakia (A) 0-0
vs Macedonia (A) 2-0
vs Spain (H) 0-1
vs Slovenia (H) 2-0
vs Slovenia (A) 1-1
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP RECORD
2012 Group stage
Words Eliot Rothwell; Interview Lukas Vrablik
Samsung SUHD TV with Quantum Dot Display. The best soccer viewing experience.