Ukraine’s progress at UEFA EURO 2020 may not have been as smooth as their unbeaten qualifying campaign, when they finished above holders Portugal, but they now stand on the brink of a first major semi-final since independence.
They do not have the star names of their opponents in Rome on Saturday, England, but Ukraine have proved their worth here, first in their thwarted comeback against the Netherlands and then their dramatic round of 16 elimination of Sweden. Our Ukraine team reporter Bogdan Buga profiles the key men that have got them this far.
Georgiy Bushchan, goalkeeper: A late bloomer, the 27-year old is completing his breakthrough season, having debuted in the UEFA Champions League, won his first league title with Dynamo Kyiv, and broken into the national team – becoming No1 at this tournament. Has played every minute at UEFA EURO 2020.
Oleksandr Karavaev, defender: Nominally a midfielder turned right-back by Andriy Shevchenko and switching between two roles at Dynamo. He was an unused substitute at UEFA EURO 2016 but has played every minute at these finals.
Illia Zabarnyi, defender: Ukraine’s youngest player to appear at a major championship, against the Netherlands aged 18 years and 285 days, the Dynamo centre-back has fast become an important player for club and country since his debut in senior football last September. He is ever-present at EURO 2020.
Mykola Matviyenko, defender: The left-footed centre-half boasts a fine first touch, good vision and accurate passing; he’s a key figure in the Synio-Zhovti’s build-up in addition to performing his defending duties to a high level. Another to have played every minute at EURO 2020.
Serhiy Kryvtsov, defender: The second-choice centre-back got his chance after Ukraine changed formation to 3-5-2 against Sweden. The toughest among Ukraine’s three at the back.
Oleksandr Zinchenko, defender: Having played three group matches in midfield, he took a wing-back role against Sweden, more akin to his position at Manchester City where he tends to play left-back. His goal and assist in Glasgow gave Ukraine their ticket to quarter-finals. Ever-present at EURO 2020.
Serhiy Sydorchuk, midfielder: The Dynamo captain has been a pivotal figure for Ukraine at this EURO. A holding midfielder, who can also be very effective in second-wave attacks (as when scoring against France in a 1-1 draw in March), he could have settled everything for Ukraine against Sweden long before the last minute of extra time but hit the post in the second half.
Taras Stepanenko, midfielder: Ukraine’s Edgar Davids, Gennaro Gattuso and Roy Keane rolled into one, he gives balance between attack and defence, and possesses a really strong personality. Stepanenko might have missed this EURO because of a knee problem but took great pains to be fit.
Mykola Shaparenko, midfielder: He was supposed to be an understudy at this EURO but, coming off the bench against the Netherlands, he won a starting place for the next three matches. One of Ukraine’s most skilful and creative midfielders, he thrives in the position of deep-lying playmaker.
Andriy Yarmolenko, midfielder/forward: Lacking first-team action at West Ham, he arrived at Ukraine’s camp early to get a head start. He has reaped the rewards and remains the creator-in-chief, his two goals and two assists at EURO 2020 helping him overtake Shevchenko’s record for direct goal involvements – bringing his overall tally to 42 goals and 22 assists.
Roman Yaremchuk, forward: A mainstay of Ukraine’s attack, he has formed a great partnership with Yarmolenko and scored twice at EURO 2020. But his input is much more than goals, as he is one of the team’s hardest workers. To give you a complete picture: he tried to do a sliding tackle with his head against Sweden.
Viktor Tsygankov, midfielder: Ukraine’s biggest attacking talent was meant to be a protagonist of this EURO but is still regaining fitness following a calf injury. This fast and skilful winger with a great left foot is a more genteel version of Yarmolenko.
Ruslan Malinovskyi, midfielder: Not at his best here, but thanks to his excellent distribution and ability to retain possession, create space and glide between the lines – plus his venomous shot from distance – Atalanta’s versatile left-footed midfielder could still have a huge impact.
Yevhen Makarenko, midfielder: A holding midfielder with a gentle tough, good passing and vision, he got his first 25 minutes at this EURO against Sweden and did his work with impeccable thoroughness.
Roman Bezus, midfielder: An old-school playmaker, he was the last to join Ukraine’s pre-EURO camp, recalled from holiday, so even inclusion in the 23-man matchday squad is a bonus. He has had only three minutes at this EURO, against Sweden, but brought something to the table.
Artem Dovbyk, forward: A tall and strong target man, he was included in the squad only because of Júnior Moraes’s injury. He emerged as a substitute against Sweden only because of Yarmolenko’s injury. And he scored the winner – his first goal for Ukraine on his finals debut – becoming a national hero in a flash.
Artem Besedin, forward: He never goes easy on himself and unfortunately his EURO is over, the tireless and fearless forward sustaining a terrible knee injury in overtime against Sweden. Tests have shown multiple ligament, bone and muscle damage. He will be sidelined for six months.