Shevchenko the legend lights up Kyiv

Ukraine 2 Sweden 1

Zlatan Ibrahamovic (0-1); Andriy Shevchenko (1-1); Andriy Shevchenko (2-1)

The last match in the first round of matches was a simmering affair. It started cagily but developed into a pulsating contest. Ukrainian manager Oleg Blokhin pulled off a tactical masterstroke with his starting line-up by playing the veteran Andriy Shevchenko in place of the in-form Marko Devic who was billed to start by all experts. It was an inspired selection which decided the course of the match. As expected Ukraine started with a 4-1-3-2 formation with Shevchenko and Voronin in attack. Sweden started with the 4-2-3-1 formation with Ibrahimovic playing in the hole behind the lone striker Rosenberg. The Swedes who were unbeaten in their last five matches came up against a team which was inspired by the support of the partisan 65,000 supporters who had gathered at the Olympic Stadium in Kyiv. The match was decided in a pivotal ten minutes early in the second half.

Shevchenko scores the equaliser

The start of the game was cautious from both sides who knew that a win would put them on top of the group. Sweden started brighter with an Ibrahimovic cross being palmed by the opposition goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov in the opening five minutes. The match was quite combative with 16 fouls in the opening 15 minutes.  Ukraine then took control of possession with Husev the left back linking up into the mid-field with Tymoshchuk and finding a lot of joy in the wings especially on the left through Yevhen Konoplyanka. The battle between the two veterans Olaf Mellberg and Andriy Shevchenko was captivating contest. The first clear chance fell to Shevchenko in the 23rd minute through a counterattack from the right where he exchanged passes with Yarmalenko and was in a one-on-one situation against Andreas Isaksson the Swedish goalkeeper. Shevchenko pulled his shot wide of the far post. In the opposite end Rosenberg made Pyatov scramble with a shot from outside the area in the 31st. Ukraine enjoyed long spells of sustained possession but could not find that opening with the Scandinavian defence holding strong. In the 35th minute Andriy Vorinin took a fierce pile driver from 25 yards which was parried by Isaksson. The hosts came close again on the 37th minute with Shevchenko hit a shot from the left of the box which was blocked and the rebound feel to his head which is crossed into the path of Yarmalenko whose shot was on target but valiantly blocked by a diving Andreas Granqvist. The best chance of the half fell to Ibrahimovic in the 39th minute. A cross from Lustic from the left found Ibrahimovic unmarked with ample time and he placed his header against the outside of the far post with the Ukrainian keeper completely beaten.

Ukraine continued having more possession in the starting of the second half. However Sweden looked more threatening in attack and Rosenberg shot in the 49th minute was on target and was blocked superbly by Yehven Selin the Ukrainian right back. The Swedes went ahead in the 52nd minute a long cross from the left was put back in the penalty area by Kim Kallstrom to an unmarked Ibrahimovic to stab in from close to silence the majority of the stadium. The lead lasted for only 3 minutes as Husev burst down the right and passed to Yarmalenko who crossed with his left foot and that man Shevchenko jumped ahead of his marker Mellberg to head in the equaliser. The stadium had erupted and the Ukrainians buoyed by the support went forward menacingly and Gusev shot over from outside the box in the 59th minute. The Ukrainians got a corner in the 62nd minute and Konoplyanka took it from the left. Shevchenko managed to get rid of his marker Ibrahimovic and flicked the ball with his head at the near post. The ball went in past a very small gap between the post and Lustig the Swedish defender who was guarding it. The legend had turned the match on its head in a matter of 10 minutes. The Swedes re-organised by bringing on the veteran Anders Svensson in place of Toivonen. Svensson shored up the mid-field allowing Rasmus Elm to go forward to support the attackers. Sweden brought on Christian Wilhelmsson the more attack minded winger in place of Seb Larrson in the 68th minute. Wilhelmsson nearly found Elm with a long pass from the left.  Joham Elmander just back from his broken meta-tarsal was sent in by the Swedes in the 71st minute looking for an equaliser. Shevchenko and Voronin were both withdrawn as Blokhin tried to bring in fresher legs to his teams cause. Sweden nearly found the equaliser in the 90th minute when Elamander exchanged passes with Ibrahamovic a lofted return pass sent him clear but he blasted the ball over with the goal at his mercy. A fully match fit Elmander may have scored from a similar chance. In the last minute of added time Olaf Mellberg found himself in the opposition penalty box but his volley with outstretched foot sailed over the goal.

After Thought

It was expected that the in-form Swedish team would easily get past the hosts who had lost their last two matches and were low on confidence. However, Ukraine was the better side and dominated the game for long periods of time with sustained possession and more attempts on goal. Oleg Blokhin has proved to be a master tactician by starting his veteran striker allowing him to gain confidence from the partisan support. They will go into their match against France with a lot of belief and the knowledge that a win will ensure qualification to the quarter-finals. Sweden will have to re-think their strategy and shore up the mid-field which was outplayed by the Ukrainians. It will be better if they started with Svesson instead of Toivonen allowing Elm to play in the advanced role. The fitness of Elmander will also be crucial to their fortunes. They need to get a result against England who managed to draw against a better French side. The Swedes do not want to go into the last match against France looking for a victory which looks unlikely looking at the first round of matches.


Ukraine  : Andriy Pyatov, Oleg Husyev,  Yevhen Khacheridi, Taras Mykhalik, Yevhen Selin, Anatoliy Timoschchuk, Serhiy Nazarenko, Yevhen Konoplyanka (Marko Devic,90+3), Andriy Yarmolenko, Andriy Shevchenko (Artem Milevskyi,81), Andriy Voronin (Ruslan Rotan,85)

Sweden :Andreas Isaksson, Mikael Lustig, Olaf  Mellberg, Andreas Granqvist,  Martin Olsson, Rasmus Elm, Kim Kallstrom, Sebastian Larsson (Christian Wilhelmsson,68), Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Ola Toivonen (Anders Svensson,62), Markus Rosenberg (Johan Elmander,71)

Referee: Cüneyt Çakır (Turkey)

Venue: Olympic Stadium


“All the players, the staff and the stadium were with us. That’s why we won today – we were one family.” Anatoliy Tymoshchuk- on the team spirit of Ukraine.



“It’s tough, it’s tough. We shouldn’t have lost. We had good chances to score goals. We were winning 1-0, then they scored to make it 1-1 and another to make it 2-1 from a corner and that just can’t happen. But we have two games left to do better.” Zlatan Ibrahamovic – on his teams loss.

Triviela – Beyond Trivia

The Trivela is a Portuguese term to denote the art of kicking the football with the outside of one’s foot. It is used to hide one’s weaker foot and also to suddenly fool the opposition with a wickedly swerving ball from a difficult angle. In Triviela, we will attempt to find some football feats/facts which would make you sit up and take note, like it happens when you see Ricardo Quaresma try these.


Momentous Win

When a Christiano Ronaldo goal gave Real Madrid a victory over an all conquering Barcelona team at the Estadio Mestalla, Valencia on 20 April 2011, it was more than a cup win for the club, the manager and couple of its players. Even though Real Madrid is one of the giants of Spanish and European football, they had endured a complete barren phase for 2 years and it was only due to the fact that their perennial rivals, Barcelona was sporting perhaps the best club team of all time. The Copa Del Rey was the only Madrid victory in the 5 El Classicos of the season and since the time they last won the La Liga in the 2007-08 season.

For manager Jose Mourinho, it was a continuation of a tradition where he has won a trophy in the first year in each of his last 4 clubs in the last decade. Starting his managerial career at the beginning of the millennium with Benfica in 2000, Mourinho had a brief one year spell with União de Leiria whom he took to their highest league position of 5th. The next season he was at Porto and thus started his career of remaining unbeaten at home and winning trophies in his first year at a club. He won the Portuguese Primeira Liga, Taça de Portugal and UEFA Cup in 2002-03. He would go on to win the English Premier League and League Cup in his debut year of 2004-05 with Chelsea. At Inter, he won the Serie A and Supercoppa Italiana on his debut in 2008-09 season. In that respect, failing to win the La Liga in his debut for Real Madrid may be considered a failure but at least the Copa del Rey proved he had something to show at the end of his 1st year.

The Copa del Rey also completed a set for one of the finest goalkeepers of this generation. Iker Casillas had won 4 La Ligas, 3 Supercopa de España, 2 Champions Leagues, an UEFA Super Cup, an Intercontinental Cup, a World Cup, a European Championship, European U15 and U16 championships and a FIFA World Youth Championship. With the Copa del Rey, he completed the domestic set. With the exception of the Olympics, that is as complete a set as possible for a club and country combined and who knows, he may even win that in future.

Parting Shot: Alvaro Arbeloa, is perhaps a unique footballer in that he has played for many big clubs – Real Madrid (twice; having come through the youth ranks), Liverpool and Deportivo La Coruna but had yet to win any silverware for his clubs. Call him a bad omen at your risk though, for he has a European Cup and World Cup with Spain. Finally this win broke that & he also played for 120 minutes of the final.

Show Me The Goals

Fernando Torres has become from an iconic striker of his generation to a laughing stock since his € 58.5 mn deal to Chelsea. From scoring the tournament winning goal and being the man of the match in the European Cup, 2008, Torres has had a steady decline for Spain accentuated by the sheer lack of goals after his move to Chelsea. In fact since scoring the winner for Liverpool away to Wolverhampton Wanderers on 22 January 2011 (his last appearance for the Reds), Torres has played 1552 minutes for Chelsea in various competitions in 26 matches and scored only 3 goals till 10 October 2011. That is a shocking return of 517 minutes per goal. In the same period he has played 7 times for Spain for a combined 255 minutes and managing a single goal against United States.

There may be many reasons for this slump of Torres .We, here, are not going to ascertain the reason but just point out that how a similar fate had befallen another great European striker in the last decade after his multimillion euro move to Chelsea.

Andrei Shevchenko is a Milan Legend and the favourite son of Ukraine. His feats of goalscoring for Dynamo Kiev include 121 goals in 237 appearances which puts him fourth on the list of the club’s all time scorers. Perhaps he exceeded even that when he scored 175 times in 322 matches for Milan which made him the second highest scorer in Milan’s history. He also has 67 goals in 141 matches in European competitions which puts him just 5 behind all time leader Raul and 3 behind his long time partner Filippo Inzaghi. For his national team, he is an icon with over 100 appearances and over 50 of them as a captain (still continuing). He has scored 46 goals for Ukraine and a measure of how vital they have been can be gauged from the fact that only two other Ukrainian has scored more than 9 and #2 on this list is Serhiy Rebrov with 15. His calibre and stature among the all-time great hitmen of Europe in this century is unquestionable and the Ballon D’or of 2004 confirms that.

When Shevchenko left Milan for Chelsea at the behest of Roman Abramovich (or the desires of his American wife to put their child in an English atmosphere – as Sheva had widely accepted at the time) it was for a record € 46 mn. At that time, he was the player fetching the highest ever transfer fee that Milan, albeit unwillingly, had sold. What followed at Chelsea was a remarkable downturn of fortunes.  At Chelsea, in 2 stints he made 77 appearances scoring 22 goals. In those same years he played 13 matches for Ukraine scoring 6 times.

But Shevchenko was 30 when he moved to Chelsea and it is likely that a striker loses some of his sharpness beyond that age. Torres made his move before his 27th birthday and if his barren spell persists, the next big striker to move to Stamford Bridge for an astronomical sum may well consult an astrologer before confirming the move.

Parting Shot: Chelsea is the 3rd club in the career of Shevchenko and Torres. Sheva’s first two transfers fetched € 69 mn. His next two were for free. Torres’ first two transfers have fetched € 96.5 mn. He better get his act together though before he becomes a free transfer quality.