Man of the Match: One of the easiest calls is also one the tournament’s best stories. When Ukraine failed to qualify for South Africa 2010, Andriy Shevchenko set his sights on Euro 2012, an ambitious goal considering he’s now 35 years old. After a first 45 minutes where the Dynamo Kiev striker showed his age, Shevchenko had a two goal second half. The first saw Shevchenko blowing through Olof Mellberg to a cross from the right, with a similar second scored after beating Zlatan Ibrahimovic to a near-post corner. The night hardly could have played out better for the co-hosts.
Packaged for takeaway:
- In the middle of the match, things didn’t look good for Ukraine. After a decent start, they’d let Sweden settle in, and the game appeared to be developing a predictable format: Home team starts strong; visitor holds out; home team loses steam; visitor takes control. Coming out of half time, Sweden created a quick goal for Zlatan Ibrahimovic and looked to set ruin the co-hosts’ debut.
- So how’d the match turn?
- Ukraine did a great job or using the advantages they had wide with Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhan Konoplyanka;
- In midfield, veteran Serhiy Nazarenko kept the ball moving;
- High effort nights from Shevchenko and Andrei Voronin kept the defense honest; while,
- There was surprisingly little wide resistance from a Sweden team which, playing a 4-2-3-1, should have been able to compete on the flanks (perhaps it’s no surprise both Sweden starting wingers were subbed off).
- Out wide, Erik Hamrén surprisingly started PSV’s Ola Toivonen, a natural striker, wide left. The move pushed Rasmus Elm into midfield and veteran Anders Svensson to the bench. An attacking shift, perhaps Hamrén felt he could take advantage of right back Oleh Gusev – I don’t know. I ended up throwing off the attack and compromising what Sweden did defensively. Gusev ended up having a nice night, while Yarmolenko was given room to have a very influential evening.
- Markus Rosenberg was also a surprise starter for Sweden, but Johan Elmander was deemed unfit to go 90 minutes. When he came on, Elmander was given a golden chance to tie the match, but running onto a bouncing ball Ibrahimovic delivered for him nine yards for goal, he blasted it wide left. With Ibrahimovic enjoying some spells of dominance on the ball (pushing around Ukraine’s defenders), Sweden could have used their first choice number nine.
- And what could have been a great battle between Ibrahimovic and defensive midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk never materialized. Tymoshchuk sat deep, centrally, moving very little, and for whatever reason, he and Ibrahimovic rarely crossed paths.
- Ukraine now moves on to face France, against whom they can have similar success in wide areas. Does Shevchenko have another great performance in him? Let alone on three days’ rest?
- And Sweden takes on England. England’s had trouble with Sweden in the past, though based on what we saw today, it’s hard to see how Sweden gets through the Three Lions. Sweden’s defense will also have to improve if they’re to contain even a modest England attack.
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