Ukrainian coach Oleh Blokhin
took his 26-man Euro 2012 squad off to training camp in Turkey
on Tuesday warning them they were in for a psychological
shake-up to give them an outside chance of surviving elimination
in the early stages.
This is going to be a holiday only for their wives, he said.
With a goalkeeping crisis that has forced Blokhin to call up
two uncapped keepers and a creaking defence, Ukraine's national
team is seen as having only a slim chance of getting through
tough Group D matches against Sweden, England and France.
But with the right psychological preparation this was still
a reality, he said.
"Euro 2012 can turn out in different ways. However you look
at it, Ukraine's team has got younger and we have now
essentially a new team," he said.
"Our task is to qualify from the group. In 2006 nobody
believed we would qualify for the finals of the World Cup.
Appetite comes with eating," he told reporters.
Blokhin, 59, a former European player of the year, led the
national team to the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup.
"But if the lads think that this [training in Turkey] will
be a stroll, they are mistaken. For their wives maybe. But for
the lads it will be twice-daily training, morning and evenings,"
he was quoted as saying by Segodnya newspaper.
After training in Turkey, Ukraine, co-host of the Euro 2012
tournament with Poland, will play warm-ups against Estonia,
Austria and Turkey before going into their opening Euro clash
against Sweden in Kiev on June 11.
Blokhin has brought in young attackers like Andriy
Yarmolenko of Dynamo Kiev and Yevhen Konoplyanka of Dnipro
Dnipropetrovsk to boost Ukraine's striking power.
Veteran striker Andriy Shevchenko also says he is fit enough
to turn out for his swansong in the national team, though
Blokhin still has to make a final decision over the 35-year-old,
an icon of Ukrainian football.
"I can say one thing: some footballers have come along who
are forcing us trainers to consider more attacking play,"
Blokhin told reporters.
But he said that, apart from his goalkeeping nightmare, the
defence generally was a major preoccupation. "The situation in
defence has not got any better. It's good that [Yaroslav]
Rakitsky and [Oleksandr] Kucher are scoring goals," he said
referring to their club form.
"But matches against the leading teams of Europe will not
allow two flank defenders to play in the other half of the
pitch. They are going to have to look after the defence,"
He acknowledged that Ukraine looked in good shape in
midfield, but felt concerns here too.
"How the midfield plays is how the whole team plays. And
things are not so smooth here either. I have concerns. Touch
wood that injuries do not make the situation worse," he said.
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