Blokhin: "Ukraine Could Win World Cup"

LEIPZIG, Germany -- Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin believes his World Cup debutants could lift the prized trophy on July 9. Blokhin - who became a national hero when the Ukraine became for the first side in Europe to qualify for the finals - insists anything is possible ahead of his side's Group H opener against Spain.

Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin

"We could be world champions," said the 1975 World Footballer of the Year, who continued by paraphrasing Napoleon by saying: "A soldier who does not want to become a general is not a good soldier."

And Blokhin appears unfazed despite his side possibly going into the Spain clash without star striker Andriy Shevchenko, who is doubtful with a knee injury.

"Germany played without Ballack against Costa Rica and that didn't prevent them from winning," he said defiantly.

"Apart from Shevchenko we have quite a few more players who are dangerous in front of goal."

Should Blokhin start without his captain, Sergei Rebrov could partner Olexiy Belik up front.


Spain midfielder Xabi Alonso has remained bullish about his side's chances at the World Cup, despite poor showings in recent tournaments.

Luis Aragones' side have been perennially labelled dark horses yet flattered to deceive in recent times, but Alonso believes this could be the year when Spain finally have some success.

"We have had some great teams in the past and they lacked a little luck or something was always missing," said the Liverpool playmaker. "But I don't see any reason why we can't make a big run in this tournament. Why not this year?

"I think we have the talent and the players. Obviously in the last few tournaments we have not been able to reach the final or the semi-finals.

"Now we are desperate to get there and I think with the preparations we have made it is entirely possible that this time we can achieve big things."

Alonso sees Ukraine as Spain's biggest threat in Group H, but believes his team-mates will be out to impress in their opener.

"On paper they are a very tough opponent," he conceded. "We played against them two years ago in Spain and it was really difficult to play against them.

"They were also the first team to qualify for the World Cup from Europe, so this means they are a very dangerous team and we will have to be aware of this.

"But we will be very motivated to take the game to them from the start."

After failing to impress in warm-up games, captain and all-time leading goalscorer Raul looks set to start on the bench, with Fernando Torres and David Villa the likely duo to start up front.

Argentine-born defender Mariano Pernia is expected to start at left-back, with Marcos Senna, Alonso and Xavi likely to make up the midfield.

Prediction: Ukraine 2-1 Spain

Source: EuroSport