Ukraine Leader Phones Coach, May Attend Next Game

KIEV, Ukraine -- Ukraine President Viktor Yushchenko phoned coach Oleg Blokhin on Tuesday to congratulate the national team on their latest World Cup victory and said he might come to support them in the quarter-finals.

Viktor Yushchenko (R) and Coach Oleh Blokhin in file photo

Kisses, chocolates and cakes were distributed and champagne drunk across Ukraine as Blokhin's side surpassed expectations by knocking out Switzerland 3-0 in a penalty shootout to set up a last eight meeting with Italy.

"The president said he and his family, together with millions of other fans, watched yesterday's game until late at night and he kept his fingers crossed, especially during the penalty shootout," Yushchenko's press service said.

"The president also hasn't ruled out turning up in person to support our team in the next game."

Hundreds of Ukrainians poured into the streets chanting "Forward Ukraine!" and waving flags in the national colours of blue and yellow after the second-round game went to extra time and penalties before ending in the early hours of the morning.

People congratulated each other on public transport and in offices across the country on Tuesday. Television channels showed several parliamentary deputies turning up for a session sporting national team scarves and caps.

Ukraine are playing in the World Cup finals for the first time. Before the tournament, they set a modest target of qualifying from their first round group.

Blokhin has admitted that Ukraine have not played the prettiest football but said results were what counted.

Ukraine face Italy in Hamburg on Friday.

Source: Reuters