The domestic sports media and the football community spent last week waiting for the start of the main team of Ukraine in the Euro-2024 qualification at the legendary Wembley. Our junior national teams also solved their tasks.
Coaching stability, unity of players
It is good that the vast majority of press representatives and experts, together with the direct participants of the match, presented a single positive front on the eve of the crucial meeting. Of course, there were concerns about the result, especially given the strength of the opponent and the aura of one of the most famous arenas in the world. However, all doubts arose within the limits of predictions, which is an indispensable working moment on the eve of any matches and competitions.
The media even for some time covered the topic of the lack of a full-fledged head coach on the bridge of the "blue-yellows", to which the coach of the Ukrainian "Youth" and "Alexandria" Ruslan Rotan was forced to step up. Indeed, stoking the fire of criticism on the eve of the Battle of London was inappropriate, because it still did not save the situation. We had to work in the conditions that had already been created.
Moreover, the coaching situation at the Ukrainian institute of national teams even confused the opponent. Thus, the British journalist Andrew Todos described the surprise of the English that the acting head coach of the Ukrainian national team combines three positions at once.
"In England, they don't know much about it. When I tell my colleagues that Ruslan Rotan works with three teams at the same time, they cannot believe it. They ask, how is this even possible? Does he even have time for such a combination? And they don't really know what to expect from the Ukrainian national team in this case. So this can play in her favor", E. Todos admitted in an interview for YouTube channel FunDay (24.03.23).
Instead, the current leader of the Ukrainians tries not to pay much attention to the temporary arrangement. He understands and, most importantly, owns the situation without taking the trash out of the house. And his assistants at the main place of work cope with their duties, adequately replacing the mentor.
"In such a situation, Rotan's assistants play a very important role - both in "Alexandria" and in the youth national team of Ukraine. They must not only have all the information, but also be able to make responsible decisions quickly. As for Rotan, I hope he now has the opportunity to focus as much as possible on our national team. In any case, I sincerely wish Ruslan the best of luck", said Valery Kryventsov, ex-midfielder of the Ukrainian national team. (Footboom.com, 25.03.23).
"At the moment, the "youth" gives us confidence, it's a very good sign. As for my position, the match is tomorrow, I am the head coach of the national team, so I am focused on this game. The day after tomorrow morning, I'm going to Italy for the match of the youth team. Now all of us, like the whole country, have a situation from which we need to get out. I could not refuse when I was invited to this position for the match against England, it would be unpatriotic of me. We are concentrating on tomorrow's match", Rotan himself assured at the press conference before the game with the English. (Ua-football.com, 25.03.23).
It should also be remembered that his current wards also had their difficulties, not directly related to football. The national team gathered in London closer to Monday evening. Due to logistical problems during the war, most of the players got to the capital of England by different routes. For example, the performers of Shakhtar and Dnipro-1 went from Lviv to Rzeszów by bus, and from Kyiv by train to Przemyśl, and from there by bus to Poland. And only after meeting at the Rzeszów airport, this part of the team from Ukrainian clubs took off on a charter flight to Britain.
However, the guys from "Dynamo", "Dnipro-1", and "Shakhtar" have been working in this mode for a long time. And participation in European Cups and constant long-term relocations together with flights only hardened their character. So they all arrived at the venue in a great mood, and after meeting with the legionnaires rolled up their sleeves to support the coach and each other.
"Rotan is a fairly active coach, young and energetic, who played football for many years and then switched to coaching. He already has his experience, so he understands that now he is the helmsman of the national team, and he is aware of his responsibility. He lives football, he lives the game with England, and we are all ready to help him. Even some injured players flew to support the team. We do everything to get a good result", Taras Stepanenko, the vice-captain of the "blue and yellow" team, expressed a common opinion. (Uaf.ua, 21.03.23).
Inspection by "Brentford"
On Thursday, to diversify the preparation, the national team played the first match of the new year, albeit an unofficial one, against the representative of the Premier League "Brentford". This was also done in order for the players to be in the same playing conditions as the future opponent. After all, on the same day, the England national team played a match of the 1st round of the Euro-2024 qualifying tournament against Italy.
On the initiative of the hosts, the match was not held at their club stadium, but rather nearby, by London standards, at the Wimbledon FC arena. In addition, with the consent of both parties, it was decided to make the match closed to the media and not to organize a broadcast. Only representatives of official delegations of opponents and families of Ukrainian football players living abroad were allowed in the stands.
"This match was agreed upon last year, but recently there have been rumors that the English side would like to abandon it. However, again, according to the rumors, English football officials persistently asked "Brentford" to play this match in order to tire out the Ukrainian national team a little, and maybe accidentally injure one of our football players.
...And everything would be fine, because we are always happy to watch a match of the Ukrainian national team. But the problem is that it was "Brentford" who insisted on the completely closed nature of this match. It will take place at the training base of this club behind closed doors", revealed the "secret" Sportanalytic.com (23.03.23).
Of course, fans from both countries were outraged by the media organization of the sparring, which took place without media, broadcast or even text online. Fans spoke about this in social networks and put forward many funny versions regarding the secrecy of the match with a double of not the strongest Premier League club. After all, at first UAF announced that the "blue and yellow" would play against the first team of the "bees", but only Pontus Jansson and Josh Dasilva participated in the match from the representatives of the main team - in the other game, the young guys from "Brentford B" played against the Ukrainians.
Nevertheless, the training game took place and definitely added material to the Ukrainian coaching staff in terms of preparation for the meeting with a top opponent.
"For Ruslan Rotan, this sparring was the only opportunity to test the players not in game series during training, but in conditions close to an official match. In addition, the weather was purely English, as it is predicted for Sunday at Wembley - high humidity and light rain that increased from time to time. In the protocol of the match, the coaches added all the players who were at the meeting, except for Yarmolenko, who is recovering from an injury, Sydorchuk, who had a little cold, and Zinchenko and Trubin, who were given a rest", shared the information Vesti.ua (25.03.23).
As a result, the national team of Ukraine in Ruslan Rotan's debut match as acting head coach started the year with a victory, scoring a goal in each of the halves. Oleksandr Svatok and Georgy Sudakov scored goals. Local success not only added to the "blue-yellow" game practice - maintaining the game tone in the training process, but also positive emotions. Therefore, to show disdain for this game and laxity during preparation would be extremely unwise.
Rotan himself was charged with the result, and during these days he showed himself to be sociable not only in the team, but also in communication with the press. Speaking about the upcoming game with England, he earned additional pluses not only from Ukrainian fans.
"A match at Wembley is not just a match for coaches and footballers, it is a match for the country. I want to thank Great Britain for the support it provides us in the fight against the enemy. This match is for our fighters and the warriors who fight. We perfectly understand what is happening in Ukraine - it is very scary. The guys and we understand that with the game and the result we have to give hope to our country to get the emotions that our people currently lack", the helmsman emphasized. (Sportarena.com, 22.03.23).
The class of the top opponent
Unfortunately, our team failed to realize Ukrainian football dreams at one of the most famous stadiums in the world. In the presence of about 85,000 spectators, more than 4,000 of whom were "blue-yellow" fans, the Rotany boys conceded two unanswered goals.
The Italians also "tasted" as much in the opening double-header selection in Group C, as well as in the first half. But in the second half, the Apennines still reduced the gap to a minimum. For such an answer, the Ukrainians should have scored at least once in the goal area, but this did not happen, while the "lions" forced Anatoly Trubin to enter the game eight times.
"There were enough excuses for the possible defeat of the "blue and yellow" on the last Sunday of March, and they were, in fact, lying on the surface. The strength of England is the finalist of EURO 2020 and the quarter-finalist of the World Cup 2022, a half-year break for our team - without sparring and even meetings, the absence of a full-fledged coach. And so on. And so it was necessary to try to achieve a result not thanks to, but in spite of, and in a certain way to jump above the head...” reminds "Football Club" (26.03.23).
Yes, there is always hope for a miracle. But, in general, if the opponent is frankly higher class, there is no place for fantasy. According to the official UEFA website (Uefa.com, 26.03.23) England have won 19 of their last 20 EURO qualifiers. At the same time, they scored in the last 25 matches in the selection for the European Championship. You can't argue against such statistics.
"Summing up, it should be honestly noted that the Ukrainian national team is not doing well against the English. There simply aren't enough players of the right level in normal game form at all positions to even "impose". Apparently, if all the strongest players were constantly playing in clubs, everyone was alive and well, and if you could find a right-back somewhere, you could still try to hang on. But not in such a configuration, when the level of existing performers is simply not enough for the planned maneuvers", he believes Footboom.com (26.03.23).
We should not forget about the state of the team leaders, who could turn the game with their skill and experience. Captain Andrii Yarmolenko never recovered from the injury and did not even get into the protocol. The main center back, Ilya Zabarny, left the national team earlier for the same reasons. Winger Mykhailo Mudryk is just adapting to a new club and country after moving to Chelsea from Shakhtar. As well as Ruslan Malinovsky, who changed the Italian "Atalanta" to the French "Marseille" in the winter. And under what conditions the UPL representatives play, it is not necessary to say once again.
"In general, nothing terrible happened. We lost to an opponent we should have lost to, and we played about as well as we should have, considering that the team with an interim coach, under a bunch of strange experiments and assembled for the first time in six months. The opponent knew the weaknesses of the Ukrainian national team - and used them in class. This match does not have any general long-term conclusions, because it will most likely be the only one for Rotan - and in June the national team will have to start from scratch", suggests Ua.tribuna.com (26.03.23).
"I can say that the boys deserve more. We have a very good team, it needs time, you will see that this team is capable of much more. I hope that this match at "Wembley" will give an impetus to our national team to achieve great heights", the coach of the "blue and yellow" summed up the match with the Englishmen at the post-match press conference. (Terrikon.com, 03/26/23).
So, it remains to wait for new steps from UAF, a new coach and a new plan for the future development of the main team. Without it, there will be nothing.
Victoria without Rotan, Nagornyak's fiasco
The youth national team of Ukraine did not change its plans without Ruslan Rotan. On March 20, she started training sessions in Turkey in preparation for the Euro-2023 (U-21) final tournament. During the training process, the Ukrainians played a friendly match with their Danish peers.
Like the main team, the "youth" under the guidance of coaches Vasyl Kardash and Oleksandr Melashchenko had previously made a difficult logistical journey. In a partial composition, she went from Kyiv to Lviv. She was joined there by Shakhtar Donetsk and local Rukh players, who were playing the national championship match. And the next day in the morning, the "blue and yellow" also reached Warsaw by bus, from where they flew to Belek.
Our second-ranked national team did not avoid personnel losses.
"The composition was also significantly different from the one that selected a ticket to the youth Euro-2023 six months ago. A large group of players is now in the national team - Trubin, Bondarenko, Sudakov. However, even so, the Ukrainians showed a decent performance against the Danish national team", he noted Football24.ua (24.03.23).
The game turned out to be very lively, and our boys took the lead three times during the game. The last time they succeeded in this was in the fourth compensated minute, to which the Scandinavians simply did not have enough time to answer - 3:2.
Next, another move awaited the Ukrainian "youngster" - on March 25, she flew to Italy, where on March 27 in the city of Reggio di Calabria, she will hold a sparring match against the Italian team.
"This year, the youth national team of Ukraine will take part in the final tournament of Euro-2023 (U-21). In total, 16 teams will participate in the forum, which will be held from June 21 to July 8 in Georgia and Romania. According to the results of the draw, which took place on October 18 last year in Bucharest, the blue and yellow team got into Group B, where they will meet with Romania, Spain and Croatia. The three best teams of Euro 2023 (excluding France and England) will receive tickets for the 2024 Olympic Games", reminds Ukrinform.ua (25.03.23).
Unfortunately, the youth national team of Ukraine U-19 (football players not older than 2004) will not be able to participate in the big European forum this time.
On Wednesday, March 22, the wards of Serhiy Nagornyak started in Spain with a match against Luxembourg in the elite round of Euro-2023 selection, but the first pancake turned out to be lousy for them. The match started well for the Ukrainian youth, who took the lead in their debut thanks to a goal by Dynamo striker Ihor Horbach. But later, "blue-yellow" conceded twice and never managed to get back into the game.
Being in a difficult situation, Ukraine had to beat Denmark in the next duel, but the match went according to the Luxembourg scenario. Once again, we managed to distinguish ourselves with Dynamo's efforts, when Gorbach helped to put his name on the scoreboard for teammate Anton Tsarenko, and again the opponent hit back with two stunning strikes.
It's a pity, because this team gave high hopes for success, finishing the performance in the qualifying round with the maximum result in the first place in the group...
"In the end, the Ukrainian boys lost again with a score of 1:2 and, unfortunately, lost their chances of getting to the Euros. Our team will play their next match on March 28 against Spain", sums up Uaf.ua (25.03.23).
"Dynamo" is holding its line
"There is a war, we must understand it. We can only thank our warriors for allowing us to hold matches with such teams. The problem of logistics is already on the back burner - we have to get used to it. God grant that the war in our country will end soon", - emphasized acting of the head coach of the Ukrainian national team, Ruslan Rotan, at a press conference after the Euro 2024 qualifying match with England. (Sport.ua, 26.03.23).
Everyone, including Ukrainian clubs, participates in the acceleration of our victory. So, taking advantage of the pause in the national team match, "Veres" and "Karpaty" held a meeting with a charity purpose. All money received from ticket sales, as well as donations sent by viewers online, were donated to the needs of Ukrainian soldiers undergoing treatment and rehabilitation at the base of the Rivne Regional War Veterans Hospital.
"In total, it was possible to collect 152 thousand hryvnias. Immediately after the match, the general director of the Veres folk club, Anton Nazaruk, and the head coach of the Lviv Carpathians, Andriy Tlumak, handed over a symbolic check to the head of the Rivne regional hospital for war veterans, Andriy Burachyk", - reported Nkveres.com (25.03.23).
However, "Dynamo" once again acted as the main newsmaker in matters of charity and aid. The Capital Club and the Surkis Brothers Foundation are constantly sending useful cargo for our military. In particular, on Thursday, March 23, six trucks with juices for Ukrainian soldiers from Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv regions left.
"These shipments total the first million of the declared 1.5 million juice packs. Up to 500,000 more are today in containers sent by our partners and sailing to Europe.
The work is large-scale, both in terms of territory and importance. All of this is organized, financed and coordinated exclusively by the Surkis Brothers Foundation. I am glad that today I have the opportunity to present this work at the final stage. These products will be sent to the military units of the Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv regions, to the military bases that protect the country at ground zero, as well as to the Armed Forces in a wide range", first vice-president of the "White and Blue" Vitaliy Sivkov emphasized. (Fcdynamo.com, 23.03.23).
In the "Details" story, it is noted that since the beginning of Russia's full-scale invasion of Ukraine, patrons of sports have already handed over a thousand tons of humanitarian aid to our defenders. They promise to continue helping the front. A soldier of the Ukrainian Armed Forces named Oleksandr thanked FC "Dynamo" for the assistance provided on the air of "Yediny Noviny":
"I want to express my great gratitude for this help to the servicemen of the Armed Forces of Ukraine for a better fight against the enemy - the liberation of our motherland, our native Ukraine. Glory to Ukraine!» Details.ua (24.03.23).
In addition, the "Dynamo" address recently received a thank you from the platoon commander of the 95th separate amphibious assault brigade for the pickups provided by the club to perform important tasks at the front. During one of the night attacks of the enemy, the paratroopers lost several of their vehicles, so it was necessary to purchase new ones.
So they turned to Dynamo with a request to disseminate information about the car collection with the help of their media resources in order to attract more public attention to it, show its importance and support information.
"The club immediately not only responded to this request, but also exceeded it, independently paying for two pickup trucks for our defenders. The cars were promptly handed over to the soldiers of the 95th ODSHBr", - informs 1927.kiev.ua (23.03.23).
And for the fans of Dynamo, near the Valery Lobanovsky stadium of the capital city, they have opened a special space, which will be a place where you can recharge, refresh yourself and watch football.
"It will serve not only as a traditional point of invincibility, where you can warm up, charge your gadgets, drink tea with free snacks, but also become a center for meeting football fans. They also plan to invite children from school here and draw together. Within the framework of this project, the "Dynamo Kyiv" football club will organize master classes for children, as well as meetings with the players and coaches of the football club. Charitable events to support the military will also be held", - said from the place of the event "Television service of news". (Tsn.ua, 23.03.23).