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Ukraine national football team
Ukraine national football team

The Ukraine national football team (Ukrainian: збірна України з футболу) represents Ukraine in international football matches and is controlled by the Ukrainian Association of Football, the governing body for football in Ukraine. Ukraine's home ground is the Olimpiyskiy Stadium in Kiev.[6]

After Ukrainian Independence and the country's breakaway from the Soviet Union, they played their first match against Hungary on 29 April 1992. The team's biggest success on the world stage was reaching the quarter-finals in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, which also marked the team's debut in the finals of a major championship.[7]

As the host nation, Ukraine automatically qualified for UEFA Euro 2012.[7] Four years later, Ukraine qualified for Euro 2016 via the play-off route, the first time qualifying for a UEFA European Championship via the qualifying process, as they finished in third place in their qualifying group. This marked the first time in Ukraine's five play-off appearances that it managed to win such a tie, previously having been unsuccessful in the play-off ties for the Euro 2000, 2002 World Cup, 2010 World Cup and 2014 World Cup.

Ukraine is seen as a specific case of being a successful youth football power in Europe and the world, yet fails to deliver the same taste at senior stage. The U-20 team of Ukraine has been the current reigning world champions at the FIFA U-20 World Cup, while the U-21 team had won silver medal in the 2006 UEFA European Under-21 Championship; however in spite of this rich record in youth stage, the senior side didn't achieve the same level of achievement. While Ukrainian senior side managed to enter to quarter-finals of 2006 FIFA World Cup, the team had failed in Euro 2012 and 2016, and never returned to World Cup since.

History


Officially the national team of Ukraine, the national team was formed in the early 1990s and shortly after was recognized internationally. It is not widely known, however, that Ukraine previously had a national team in 1925–1935.[8][9] Just like the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic, the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic had its own national team.

The earliest record of games it played can be traced back to August 1928. A championship among the national teams of the Soviet republics as well as the Moscow city team was planned to take place in Moscow. Just before the tournament started, the Ukraine national team played two exhibition games against the Red Sports Federation team from Uruguay, one in Kharkiv (lost 1–2) and the other in Moscow (won 3–2). At the All-Soviet tournament, Ukraine played three games and reached the final where it lost to Moscow 0–1. Along the way, Ukraine managed to defeat the national teams of Belarus and Transcaucasus.

In 1929, Ukraine beat the team of Lower Austria in an exhibition match in Kharkiv, recording a score of 4–1.

In 1931, Ukraine participated in another All-Soviet championship in Moscow. It played only one game, starting from the semifinals. Ukraine lost to the national team of Transcaucasus 0–3 and was eliminated.

In 1986, Ukraine became a winner of association football tournament of the Spartakiad of Peoples of the USSR that was hosted in Ukraine when in final it beat the team of Uzbekistan (Uzbek SSR).

Prior to Independence in 1991, Ukrainian players represented the Soviet Union national team. After the collapse of the USSR in 1991, Russia took the place of the Soviet Union national team in the qualifying tournament for the 1994 World Cup. The national team of Ukraine did not manage to enter the 1994 FIFA World Cup qualification (the draw for the qualification was held on 8 December 1991,[10] before Ukraine joined FIFA). Meanwhile, some of the best Ukrainian players of the beginning of the 1990s (including Andrei Kanchelskis, Viktor Onopko, Sergei Yuran, Yuriy Nikiforov, Ilya Tsymbalar and Oleg Salenko) chose to play for Russia, as it was named the official successor of the Soviet Union.[11] At that time Vyacheslav Koloskov was the only top official from the former Soviet Union and later the Russian Federation who served as a vice-president of UEFA in 1980–1996 and represented all of members of the Soviet Union and later the Commonwealth of Independent States.

The Soviet Union's five-year UEFA coefficient, despite being earned in part by Ukrainian players (for example, in the final of the last successful event, Euro 1988, under the direction of Valery Lobanovsky, 7 out of starting 11 players were Ukrainians[12]), were transferred to the direct descendant of the Soviet national team – the Russia national team. As a result, a crisis was created for both the national team and the domestic league. When Ukraine returned to international football in late 1994, it did so as absolute beginners.

Another reason for the occurred harsh crisis in the Ukrainian football was lack of adequate funding of teams.[11] This is understandable in terms of the general economic crisis that has affected all of the CIS (Commonwealth of Independent States) countries.[11] Yet even in contrast with Russia, the Ukrainian teams looked very poor.[11] However, there also was a reverse influx of some top class players.[11] Viktor Leonenko agreed on transfer from Dynamo Moscow to Dynamo Kiev.[11] The Russian club did not want to release him, but Leonenko did not want to continue to play in Moscow.[11] During his first six months in Kiev Viktor was forced to miss due to the FIFA disqualification.[11]

In the following years, the Ukrainian team improved, showcasing talents like Andriy Shevchenko, Anatoliy Tymoshchuk, Serhiy Rebrov and Oleksandr Shovkovskiy. Ukraine, however, failed to qualify for any major tournaments prior to 2006.

Soon after being accepted to FIFA and UEFA as a full member in 1992, Ukraine started its preparation for its first game. At first the head coach of the team was planned to be Valeriy Lobanovskyi, but at that time he had a current contract with the United Arab Emirates. Thus, the first manager of the team had to be chosen among members of a coaching council which consisted of Anatoliy Puzach (manager of Dynamo Kyiv), Yevhen Kucherevskyi (FC Dnipro), Yevhen Lemeshko (Torpedo Zaporizhya), Yukhym Shkolnykov (Bukovyna Chernivtsi) and Viktor Prokopenko (Chornomorets Odesa). Later, they were joined by a native of Donetsk Valeriy Yaremchenko (Shakhtar Donetsk). At the end a circle of candidates narrowed down only to three names: Puzach, Yaremchenko and Prokopenko, the latter who eventually became the head coach.

For the first game of the team it was agreed to play against Hungary on 22 April 1992 in Kiev at the Republican Stadium. Due to financial issues, however, it was rearranged to 29 April and moved to the border with Hungary in Uzhhorod at the Avanhard Stadium. There was almost no preparation to the game as all "pioneers" gathered in Kiev on 27 April and the next day flew out to Uzhhorod. At the same time, the opponent, while failing to qualify for the Euro 1992, was preparing for 1994 FIFA World Cup qualification. Ukraine at that time failed to be accepted for the qualification cycle.

Unlike the Hungarian squad, players of which played alongside before and were coached by the European Cup-winning coach Emerich Jenei, the Ukrainian team lost some its better and experienced players to the CIS national football team that was playing its own friendly against the England national football team in Moscow.[13] Among those were Andrei Kanchelskis, Volodymyr Lyutyi, Sergei Yuran, Viktor Onopko, Oleksiy Mykhaylychenko and Akhrik Tsveiba (the last two would later represent Ukraine). For the game against Hungary, only Ivan Hetsko and Oleh Luzhny had previous experience of playing at international level; other players had only played for the Soviet Olympic football team, while Serhiy Kovalets played for Ukraine at the Spartakiad of People of the USSR in 1986.

The first home game was lost 1-3 with Ivan Hetsko becoming the first goalscorer in the history of national team. During the summer of 1992 Prokopenko's team played two more away games on 27 June against the United States (0-0) and on 26 August against Hungary (1-2). After the second loss to Hungary Prokopenko resigned. Leading in its game against Hungary, Ukraine conceded two goals in the final 10 minutes.

To the scheduled against Belarus in Minsk in the fall, Ukraine had left with Prokopenko's assistants Mykola Pavlov and Leonid Tkachenko. At the Dinamo Stadium, Ukraine managed to salvage a game by tying one a piece with a goal from Yuriy Maksymov.

During a winter intermission, Ukraine that already suffered from lack of good players lost two promising young footballers Stepan Betsa and Oleksiy Sasko who perished in a car accident. Without able to secure a contract with Valeriy Lobanovsky, Ukraine appointed another head coach, former forward of Dynamo Kyiv Oleh Bazylevych. With the national team he made his debut in the spring of 1993 in Odessa in a friendly against Israel. In the expected win, the game again was saved just 10 minutes before it ended by Serhiy Konovalov with a score of 1-1. Less than a month later Ukraine finally celebrated its first victory in Vilnius in an away friendly against Lithuania winning 1-2 (goals scored by Viktor Leonenko and Dmytro Mykhaylenko). During the summer Ukraine played one away game against Croatia which spoiled the recent success with a 3-1 defeat. One of the goals for Croatia in the game was scored by Davor Šuker, for Ukraine the first goal was scored Andriy Husin. In October 1993 Ukraine went on its first tour to the United States where it played three games against the US and Mexico. In San Diego, the game against Mexico, which Ukraine lost 1-2, was attended by over 50,000 spectators. During the winter break Ukraine found out that it was seeded in the Group 4 of the UEFA Euro 1996 qualification.

In March 1994, Ukraine paid Israel a visit, but lost the game with a single penalty kick. Next there was a home game against Belarus where Ukraine finally won with confidence (3-1), even though trailing 1-0 at the half. Just before its first official game at international competition which was scheduled to be played with Lithuania at home, Ukraine played couple of away games against Bulgaria and the United Arab Emirates which both ended with 1-1 tie. Another tour was scheduled right after the game with Lithuania to Korea, the national team of which was coached by a native of Kiev Anatoliy Byshovets. The opening game against Lithuania, considering the last year away victory, was expected to end positively for Ukraine. However, on 7 September 1994 at the Olimpiyskiy Stadium Ukraine was completely stunned by Lithuania with a 0-2 defeat.[14] Both goals were yielded with a couple of minutes apart in the mid of the second half and the main troublemaker for Ukraine became Valdas Ivanauskas who at time was a forward in Hamburger SV. For Korea the national team left without Bazylevych and led by his assistants whom were Mykola Pavlov and Vladimir Muntyan. With Korea, Ukraine played two games and lost both. A week later it returned home. On 20 September 1994 Oleh Bazylevych was highly criticized at the federation's coaching meeting and the final decision about his future at the team was decided to obtain at the next meeting of the FFU Executive Committee a few days later.[15] However, the next day Bazylevych resigned accusing Bannikov of being tactless. On 24 September 1994 the Football Federation of Ukraine appointed Yozhef Sabo as an acting head coach until the end of the year.

Following the change of coach, the national team did not improve right away. The next game at home Ukraine tied with Slovenia 0-0.[16] After missing to obtain its first victory again, Ukraine rolled down to bottom of the tournament table just above Estonia. The next game was in mid-November at home against the same Estonian team and Ukraine had to win to keep any hopes in the qualification tournament. The Estonians, who were unable to field its best team, hoped to repeat the Slovenian effort a month before.[17] Ukraine managed to overcome their defense, finally obtaining its first victory, which was 3-0. The team finished the year fourth in the table with main games yet ahead. Right after the game with Estonia, Sabo left his post and the Federation had to choose a new coach.[18] On 5 January 1995 FFU confirmed Anatoliy Konkov as the new head coach.

After an unsuccessful Euro 2004 qualifying campaign, Ukraine appointed Oleg Blokhin as the national team's head coach. Despite initial skepticism about his appointment due to his previous somewhat undistinguished coaching record and general public calls for a foreign coach, Ukraine went on to qualify for their first-ever FIFA World Cup on 3 September 2005 after drawing 1–1 against Georgia in Tbilisi. In their first World Cup, in 2006, they were in the Group H together with Spain, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. After losing 0–4 in the first match against Spain, the Ukrainians beat their other two opponents to reach the knock-out stage.

In the round of 16, Ukraine played against the winner of Group G, Switzerland, who they beat on penalties. In the quarter-finals, they were beaten 0–3 by eventual champions Italy.

As co-hosts, Ukraine qualified automatically for Euro 2012,[7] marking their debut in the UEFA European Championship. In their opening game against Sweden, Ukraine won 2–1 in Kiev. Despite the team's efforts, however, Ukraine was eliminated after a 0–2 loss to France and a 0–1 loss to England, both in Donetsk.

For the Euro 2016 qualifying round, Ukraine were drawn against Spain, Slovakia, Belarus, Macedonia and Luxembourg. The Zbirna was expected to qualify for the tournament as runners-up of the group behind Spain but, despite having won all of their games against Belarus, Macedonia and Luxembourg, the Ukrainians finished third due to a lack of finishing during the top matches against Spain and Slovakia. They therefore had to face Slovenia in the play-off route and succeeded in taking revenge over the team which eliminated Ukraine at the same stage in 1999. They recorded a 2–0 win at Lviv before catching the 1–1 draw at the very end of the second game.

Ukraine convincingly won all of their preparation friendlies against Cyprus, Wales, Romania and Albania. At club level, FC Dnipro had recently reached the UEFA Europa League final in 2015, while Shakhtar Donetsk had progressed to the semi-finals one year later, as the Ukrainian clubs succeeded in sending one participant to the round of 16 of the UEFA Champions League two times in a row. Having been drawn against world champions Germany, Slavic neighbors Poland and first-time Euro competitors Northern Ireland, the Ukrainian team was expected to advance at least to the next round.

The tournament, however, turned into a surprising nightmare. Ukraine lost all of their three games, becoming the only participant in such a case and the first team to exit the tournament, also failing to score a single goal. The Ukrainians started against Germany and were beaten despite good resistance and great chances during an entertaining first half. They came close to levelling the score but were unable to deliver the final end product and were hit by Germany on the counterattack at the very end of the game. Despite a 2–0 loss, it appeared that they would prove to be a stubborn opposition for their opponents. This game was followed by a dreadful and disastrous second 2–0 loss against Northern Ireland where a goal was again conceded at injury time. The Ukrainian media mainly criticized the coach Mykhaylo Fomenko's perceived inadequate psychological preparation of the squad as much as predictable tactics which were judged as easy to break down. Ukrainians stars Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka's under-performance was also mentioned. Ukraine were the first team eliminated from the competition at this point and lost 1–0 in their last game to Poland.

Ukraine started off with a home draw to eventual group leaders Iceland and an away draw to Turkey. This was followed by two home wins, 3-0 against Kosovo and 1-0 against Finland. Despite a 1-0 away loss to Croatia, they beat Finland 1-2 away and Turkey 2-0 at home. This was followed by a 2-0 away loss to Iceland and a 0-2 away win against Kosovo. Going to the last game, Ukraine stood a strong chance of qualifying for the tournament, but after a 0-2 home loss to Croatia, they failed to qualify for the play-offs for their first time.

Ukraine was drawn with the Czech Republic and Slovakia in League B. They beat the Czech Republic 1-2 away and Slovakia 1-0 at home, before earning a promotion with a 1-0 home win to the Czech Republic, before ending with a heavy 4-1 away loss to Slovakia.

Stadiums


The most important matches of the Ukrainian national team are held in Kyiv's Olimpiyskiy National Sports Complex, also home of Dynamo Kyiv. New infrastructure and stadiums were built in preparation for Euro 2012, and other venues include stadiums in the cities of Donetsk, Kharkiv, Lviv, Dnipro, Odesa. The alternative stadiums are: |Metalist Stadium (Kharkiv), Arena Lviv (Lviv), Dnipro-Arena (Dnipro), and Chornomorets Stadium (Odessa).

During the Soviet time era (before 1991), only two stadiums in Ukraine were used in official games, the Olimpiysky NSC in Kiev (known then as Republican Stadium) and the Lokomotiv Stadium in Simferopol.

Recent and forthcoming matches


The following matches were played or are scheduled to be played by the national team in the current or upcoming seasons.

Player records


As of 10 September 2019[1] Players in bold are still active, at least at club level.

As of 10 September 2019[20]

Managers


Last updated on 10 September 2019.[21]

Currently approved:

Players


The following players have been called up for a UEFA Euro 2020 qualifying matches against  Lithuania and  Portugal on 11 and 14 October 2019 respectively.[27] Players' records are accurate as of 10 September 2019 after the match against Nigeria.[28][29]

The following players have been called up for the team within the last 12 months.[30][31][32][33][34][35][36][37]

Notes:

  • INJ = Injured.
  • WD = Withdrew.
  • PRE = Preliminary squad.
  • RET = Retired from the national team.
  • SUS = Suspended for the next match.
  • U21 = Joined the Ukraine national under-21 team instead.
  • ALT = Alternate - replaces a member of the squad in case of injury/unavailability

Competitive record


Champions       Runners-up       Third place       Fourth place

Champions       Runners-up       Third place       Fourth place

The following table shows Ukraine's all-time international record, correct as of 10 September 2019.[40]

Home venues record


Since Ukraine's first fixture (29 April 1992 vs. Hungary) they have played their home games at 11 different stadiums.

FIFA Ranking history


[41]

Kits and sponsors


On 29 March 2010, Ukraine debuted a new Adidas kit.[42] This replaced the Adidas kit with a yellow base and the traditional Adidas three stripe with a snake sash which was used in 2009.[43] Prior to 5 February 2009 Ukraine wore a Lotto kit. In 2009 the official team kit was produced by German company Adidas which has a contract with the Ukrainian team until 31 December 2016. Joma manufactured the kits starting from the year 2017 for the match against Croatia on March 24, 2017.[44]

Marketing for the Football Federation of Ukraine is conducted by the Ukraine Football International (UFI).

Former title and general sponsors included Ukrtelecom and Kyivstar.[48]

See also


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