Ukraine Helped By Soviet Legacy

ALCESTER, UK -- Germany 2006 might be Ukraine's first-ever World Cup appearance, but they have a rich footballing heritage - and a world-class striker in Andriy Shevchenko.

Many of the Soviet Union's players were Ukrainian, but when the Union collapsed in 1991 many of the players opted to represent Russia.

However, the defensive qualities the Soviets possessed appear to have been retained by the current Ukrainian team, as they only conceded seven goals in 12 qualifying games.

Such a record should send a warning to their Group H opponents - Spain and the outside duo of Saudi Arabia and Tunisia.

Coach Oleg Blokhin, a former Soviet international and Ukrainian hero, has reportedly promised that his side will qualify from their group and, to be fair, they should.

But Blokhin admits that he is concerned by the lack of players who are able to fill the boots of AC Milan hitman Shevchenko, if there are any injuries.

In an interview with the Associated Press, he said: 'I will not lie to you, I'm concerned by the level of our players, of our national team.

'I don't like how so much hope is being pinned on us. The boys are under huge pressure. We'll see what happens.'

Ukraine might not win the World Cup but Blokhin and Shevchenko alone should ensure they raise a few eyebrows along the way - even if the only English fans watching them are those hoping Shevchenko moves to Stamford Bridge in the summer.

Source: Vital Football Network


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