Fighters of Ukraine


Roman warrior: Ukraine’s Roman Yaremchuk (right and below) scores his side’s second goal against Slovakia. — AP

DUESSELDORF: After a 3-0 thrashing by Romania in their opening game in Germany, Ukraine looked to be headed for the exit when they saw themselves falling behind to an early goal by Ivan Schranz of Slovakia.

But they “showed the spirit of Ukraine” says coach Serhiy Rebrov as they fought back to win 2-1 and stay in contention for a place in the last 16 at Euro 2024.

Mykola Shaparenko equalised either side of Ukraine twice hitting the post, before substitute Roman Yaremchuk scored a late winner.

“I cannot say we did very bad against Romania. Yes, we lost in some important components, but today we showed a different spirit,” said the 50-year-old Rebrov.

“The players really showed the spirit of Ukraine on the pitch and we deserved this win.

“We have three points now. Of course we have to concentrate on the next match but today it was a very important win for Ukraine and for our country, for our supporters.

“I’m sure today they were proud of the players.”

Ukraine are playing in their first major tournament since Russian forces invaded the country in 2022.

A second straight loss in Group E would have left them staring at a likely group-stage exit from a competition in which they reached the quarter-finals in the last edition three years ago.

Instead they will go into their next match against Belgium in Stuttgart on Wednesday in a position to qualify for the knockout stages. A draw would leave them on four points, which has always been enough to reach the last 16 in the current European Championship format, at least as a best third-placed team.

“I am very grateful to everyone who played today. They deserved this victory but it is very important that they recuperate and prepare for the next game,” added Rebrov, who made four changes to his side from the Romania debacle.

One of those saw Benfica’s Anatoliy Trubin start in goal in place of Real Madrid’s Andriy Lunin, whose errors proved costly in the opening match.

“I am very glad we have good competition in the goalkeeping position,” said Rebrov.

“It doesn’t matter who played in the last game. They are both waiting, working very hard in training and both deserve to play.”

Trubin was one of five members of Ukraine’s starting line-up at the Merkur Spiel-Arena who are aged 23 or under, while Dynamo Kyiv’s Shaparenko – who set up the late winner – is just 25.

Slovakia, would have secured a last-16 spot with a win but will still have qualification within their grasp going into their final group match against Romania in Frankfurt.

“We had the chance to go through but we knew that we were playing a team that needed to win to get back into contention,” said their Italian coach, Francesco Calzona.

“My team try to play football against any team. That makes me proud, and I’m convinced that against Romania we’ll do everything to win the match.” — AFP

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