Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin must
keep his young players' feet firmly on the ground at Euro 2012
after victory over Sweden put them top of Group D and sent the
co-host nation into raptures.
He also has some work to do to before Ukraine's next test on
Friday against former world and European champions France, who
drew their opening match against England 1-1.
"We haven't thought about the game against France. I don't
know whether I will change the starting line-up or not," Blokhin
said of the France clash in Donetsk.
Andriy Shevchenko's two second-half goals on Monday sparked
national celebrations that temporarily diverted attention from
economic problems and political tension in Ukraine.
The performance was a huge improvement and raised
expectations after an unimpressive build-up to the tournament in
which Blokhin said his players could not shoot straight or
But he sought to bring them back down to earth by saying he
was unhappy with the way they played towards the end of the
match, when Sweden squandered several chances to draw level.
"I was disappointed with our performance in the final stages
because players did not stick to the agreed game plan," said
Blokhin, a former European Footballer of the Year who is never
shy of criticising his players.
"We've taken advantage of the draw between France and
England but need to play some good football against them to
prove we can qualify from the group."
He also complained that Sweden carried on playing when Evhen
Selin was down injured and Zlatan Ibrahimovic went on to score
the opening goal.
"They didn't kick the ball out as our player was laying on
the pitch and scored a goal. This is not fair play," he said.
Shevchenko, now 35, avoided criticising the Swedes but
agreed it was vital not to get carried away after the carnival
atmosphere in the capital Kiev.
"We mustn't be euphoric. We have two more games to play in
the group," he said.
Ukraine looked well-organised for most of the match, giving
Sweden little time on the ball, making their physical presence
felt and trying to catch their opponents on the counter-attack.
They also targeted Sweden's weakness from dead ball situations.
"We knew the Swedes had conceded a lot of goals at set-pieces and worked on it. And it paid off once," midfielder
Serhiy Nazarenko said of Shevchenko's second goal, a near-post
header from a corner.
Blokhin may still be concerned by occasional lapses of
concentration and a defence that allowed Sweden enough chances
to feel they deserved a draw.
But he will be heartened by the impact made by senior
players such as Shevchenko, Anatoly Tymoshchuk and Andriy
Voronin, whose influence grew as the match wore on.
Their steadying influence on the younger players will also
be vital as they try to go further than in 2006, when they
reached the World Cup quarter-finals.
"We did not expect easy games at the tournament and still
have two very difficult games to play," Tymoshchuk said, trying
to manage the nation's spiralling expectations.
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