Blokhin: Now Ukraine Has To Focus

HAMBURG, Germany -- Ukraine must come back down to earth quickly after Monday's 4-0 crushing of Saudi Arabia if it is to get past Tunisia and secure a place in the second round at its first World Cup.

Shevchenko celebrates : Ukrainian forward Andriy Shevchenko (R) celebrates with an assistant coach of the Ukrainian team at the end of the the World Cup 2006 group H football match Saudi Arabia vs Ukraine, at Hamburg stadium.

Helped by a return to form for Andriy Shevchenko and four changes to their starting lineup, the Eastern Europeans bounced back from a 4-0 drubbing by Spain that left coach Oleg Blokhin fuming about the team's mental approach and lack of fight.

Blokhin said his main task now would be to stop his team from growing overconfident before it faced a Tunisia side that frightened the life out of Spain on Monday and knows only a last-game win can see it through.

He told reporters: "This game gave us a big boost mentally. But we have to re-establish the mental basis for victory after this and it will be harder to motivate the players this time because we won."

With Spain through, Ukraine leads the running for second spot and a place in the last 16, with three points. The two Arabian teams have one point each and must win their last games to stand a chance of advancing.

Ukraine plays Tunisia in Berlin on Friday, while Saudi Arabia takes on Spain in Kaiserslautern.

The Eastern Europeans proved Monday that they were far from the one-man show some commentators have suggested.

Former European Footballer of the Year Shevchenko looked sharp again after a month off with injury, but it was Serhiy Rebrov and little-known Maxim Kalinichenko who engineered the victory in midfield.

A bit part player with Spartak Moscow, Kalinichenko took the FIFA man of the match award, scored the fourth and supplied the barrage of pinpoint crosses that were the key to victory. "I have always said he [Kalinichenko] is a great player and a great passer of the ball," Rebrov told reporters.

"He hasn't played much for Spartak, and I don't know why this is. But he is a good friend and a good person. Today he showed what he can do, but he can do even better."

Rebrov said the side could now do justice to its fans' expectations after it was the first European team to qualify for the finals from a group including Denmark, Turkey and European champion Greece. "In qualification we were best in the group and everybody sees Ukraine as a strong team, but now we have to show it," he said.

"I think after the way we played today, Tunisia will be really be preparing for us well. After losing 4-0 to Spain, I think Saudi Arabia didn't prepare well for us and thought we were not any good any more.

"We have to take this performance to the next game ... but we have shown we are capable of doing something at the World Cup."

Source: Reuters

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