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Ukraine's World Cup Profile
World Cup 2006 profile
Ukraine looks to prove it's more than a one-man show
Posted: Thursday March 9, 2006 1:54PM; Updated: Thursday March 9, 2006 3:50PM
Andriy Shevchenko, the European Footballer of the Year in 2004, scored six of Ukraine's 18 goals during World Cup qualifying.
Alexander Hassenstein/Bongarts/Getty Images
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By Ryan Hunt, SI.com
Through late April, SI.com will profile two World Cup teams a week. We continue with Ukraine. Click here for the full archive.
FIFA world ranking: No. 41.
How they qualified for Germany: Became the first European nation (other than host Germany) to book its spot by winning UEFA Group 2 with a 7-1-4 record, beating out 2002 Cup participants Turkey and Denmark as well as Euro 2004 champ Greece.
Previous World Cups: First appearance.
Manager: Oleg Blokhin, third year with team.
Sure, Andriy Shevchenko is one of the most lethal strikers in the world. But aside from the AC Milan ace, how many Ukrainian names roll off the tongue? "They are basically Shevchenko plus 10 others," says Spain striker Fernando Torres. Perhaps, but Ukraine may not have qualified for its first World Cup without timely goals from midfielder Ruslan Rotan in European qualifying.
While midfield is far from the Ukrainians' strength, Bayer Leverkusen's Andriy Voronin and Shakhtar Donetsk forward Andriy Vorobei complete a solid all-Andriy strike force. But make no mistake -- Ukraine only will go as far as Shevchenko carries it.
What to watch for
"The Ukraine is weak. It's feeble."
Kramer uttered those words in a classic Seinfeld episode, but don't think Ukraine is just a European lightweight happy to finally be invited to the World Cup party. Blokhin, a former Soviet star, even boasted his troops would win the whole thing.
That may seem like a vodka-induced proclamation after the country finally clinched it first Cup berth, but this team is a sleeper that could do some damage. After conquering one of the more difficult groups in European qualifying, the Ukrainians got a boost in their opening draw for Germany. Advancing past the first round would likely be classified as a success for the former Soviet republic. But to predict anything more from this one-man show? That would be a risk.
Group: H (Spain, Tunisia, Saudi Arabia).
Key match in group stage: June 23 vs. Tunisia. The opener against Spain will be the marquee game of Group H, but the Ukrainians' finale in Berlin against the 2004 African champions likely will determine who advances to the second round.
Oddsmakers line: 50-1.
Projected Starting Lineup
Pos. Player Club team
G Oleskander Shovkovski Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine)
D Andriy Rusol Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine)
D Andriy Nesmachny Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine)
D Vladimir Yezersky Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk (Ukraine)
M Anatoly Tymoshchuk Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine)
M Ruslan Rotan Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine)
M Andriy Husin Krylya Sovietov Samara (Russia)
M Oleh Husev Dynamo Kiev (Ukraine)
F Andriy Voronin Bayer Leverkusen (Germany)
F Andriy Shevchenko AC Milan (Italy)
F Andriy Vorobei Shakhtar Donetsk (Ukraine)