Ukraine’s key men in their Euro 2020 clash with England
Rome (AFP) – Excitement builds in England following their Euro 2020 round of 16 victory over Germany, a result that has left them a theoretically favorable path to the final as they seek to win a first major tournament since 1966.
However, Ukraine, which faces Saturday’s quarter-final in Rome, will hope for a surprise victory and advance to the last four in a major competition for the first time since the break-up of the Soviet Union.
AFP Sport takes a look at the main men in yellow and blue ahead of the game at Stadio Olimpico:
The legend: Andriy Shevchenko
The former Ballon d’Or winner is Ukraine’s all-time top scorer and one of the greatest players of his generation. He was the captain of the last Ukrainian team to reach a quarter-final, at the 2006 World Cup, when they lost to Italy. Now he is the coach of a team that just came out of their squad as one of the best thirds thanks to just one win over North Macedonia, then beat Sweden in the round of 16 with one goal right at the end of overtime.
Now 44, Shevchenko took over in 2016 and oversaw impressive results which suggest his team cannot be underestimated. They dominated their qualifying group ahead of Portugal and beat Spain in the Nations League last October. In March, they held France to a draw in Paris in World Cup qualifying.
Now Shevchenko is returning to Italy, where he has enjoyed such success as a player with AC Milan, while opponents Ukraine will bring back memories of a frustrating stint with Chelsea.
The star player: Oleksandr Zinchenko
Zinchenko, 24, plays left-back Pep Guardiola at Manchester City but in midfield for his country, a position that saw him score the opener against Sweden in Glasgow with a nice strike before putting in place the last of Artem Dovbyk. breath winner.
Zinchenko is a star in Shevchenko’s squad as a rare Ukrainian playing in one of Europe’s five big leagues, but he’s also symbolic of the country’s broader struggles.
The former captain of the Shakhtar Donetsk youth team never played for their senior team as he moved with his family to Russia when the conflict erupted in the Donbass region of Ukraine.
He ended up playing for Ufa, 1,400 kilometers east of Moscow. After playing for Ukraine at Euro 2016 as a teenager, he moved to City and established himself at the Etihad Stadium from a first loan at PSV Eindhoven.
The captain: Andriy Yarmolenko
The 31-year-old is another familiar face to Premier League fans as he has been at West Ham United since 2018.
A right winger who likes to come back inside on his favorite left foot, Yarmolenko was Ukraine’s captain at Euro and scored a stunning goal in their first 3-2 loss to the Netherlands before scoring their first game in the 2-1 win over North. Fruit salad.
Born in Russia, in present-day St. Petersburg, Yarmolenko made a name for himself at Dynamo Kiev, going through their academy and playing for their first team for nearly a decade before moving to Borussia Dortmund, where he only spent one season.
The man to watch: Ruslan Malinovskii
The 28-year-old attacking midfielder scored the tying goal in the thrilling 3-2 loss to the Dutch, then missed a penalty against North Macedonia. He was excluded from the starting lineup against Sweden but there is no doubt that he is a player capable of producing a moment of magic.
The former Shakhtar Donetsk player will also be on familiar ground in Italy, having joined Serie A in 2019 when Atalanta signed him from Belgian side Genk.
Malinovskyi was a star of the Atalanta squad who finished third in each of their two seasons in Italy. He is clearly based in Bergamo, where local media reported earlier this year that his partner Roxana will be opening a high-end clothing store in the city.