Ukraine Looks To Shevchenko For World Cup Glory

KIEV, Ukraine -- Andriy Shevchenko will have the hopes of 50 million countrymen on his shoulders when he leads Ukraine into the World Cup finals for the first time in their history.

Ukraine Captain Andriy Shevchenko

The Ukraine captain has won everything at club level but has never played in a major championship. Shevchenko said it was his life-long dream to represent his country at the highest level.

"No matter how many trophies you've won at a club level, nothing can be compared with playing for your country," said the 2004 European Footballer of the Year, who has won the Champions League and Serie A titles with AC Milan as well as five Ukrainian championships with Dynamo Kiev.

"Every player dreams of representing his country in a World Cup and I'm no different. I can only imagine what it would feel like walking on to the pitch wearing your national colours."

Shevchenko feels Ukraine are quite capable of qualifying from their first-round group, which also includes Spain, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

"We have a young team, capable of causing upsets," he said.

Leading Ukraine to the knockout round, however, would be no easy task even for a proven goalscorer such as the 29-year-old striker.

Unlike his club, where he is surrounded by a great international cast including Brazil playmaker Kaka, Dutch midfielder Clarence Seedorf and Italy full back Paolo Maldini, Ukraine have often been regarded as a one-man team.

Shevchenko would love to prove sceptics wrong as he has done time and again in his career.

Few believed a skinny 22-year-old from Ukraine would make a smooth transition to the demanding Serie A when he joined AC Milan in 1999.

Shevchenko became an instant hit with Milan fans, however, notching up 24 goals and becoming the first foreigner to top the Serie A scoring charts in his debut season.

He is now the club's second all-time leading scorer behind Gunnar Nordahl and has a chance to overtake the great Swede.

Shevchenko is also the leading active scorer in European club competition with 55 goals and is fast closing on Gerd Muller's all-time record of 62.

Source: Reuters