Ukraine's young players are so
desperate to please their home fans at Euro 2012 that coach Oleg
Blokhin fears they will be unable to restrain their attacking
instincts and could leave the defence exposed.
"We're like a good horse. The players are chomping at the
bit and I need to keep them calm," Blokhin told reporters on the
eve of Ukraine's opening Group D match against Sweden on Monday.
"Sometimes young players think they can do more than they
can. At a tournament like this leaders should emerge. But youth
can get the better of them and it's very hard to make them play
defensively. They're young and hot."
Blokhin was speaking at the national stadium in the capital
Kiev which will be awash with blue yellow, the two teams'
colours, when they become the last of the 16 teams to take the
field at the finals.
Ukraine, co-hosting the finals with Poland, have much to
prove after defeats in their last warm-up matches against
Austria and Turkey, who did not qualify for the finals.
Blokhin has struggled to find a balance since taking over as
coach only a year ago and said in a recent interview that his
players were goal-shy and could not tackle properly.
Despite this, and huge national expectations, he said: "I
don't see any big nerves."
Blokhin, back in the post in which he led Ukraine to the
World Cup quarter-finals in 2006, said Sweden were a strong side
who had more to offer than just the goalscoring skills of Zlatan
"If anyone says they are outsiders, I will not agree," he
said. "They are a very experienced team. They've played together
for a long time."
Blokhin gave nothing away about his tactics or line-up,
although he said he already knew which players would start.
He said he would refuse to see defeat against Sweden as a
tragedy because Ukraine would still have a chance of making it
out of a group that also includes France and England.
Veteran forward Andriy Shevchenko, 35, indicated he did not
know whether he would be in the starting line-up at a tournament
likely to be his international swansong.
But he said: "For me it's an extremely important tournament... it's very important for me as a player who has played for
his country for 16 years to play before my home crowd."
Ukraine also has much to prove as a nation after a BBC
documentary showed racism on the terraces in club football in
the former Soviet republic.
"I don't want to talk about racism. There is no racism in
Ukraine," Blokhin said. "This is a political matter. I don't
think it has anything to do with football. If there are any
incidents, they will not be in Ukraine."
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