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Saturday, January 14, 2006

World Cup Outsiders 1 - Ukraine

This is the first in a series of posts highlighting some of the lesser known countries appearing at the World Cup in Germany.

Where better to start than with the first European football team to qualify - the Ukraine. Yup, the Ukraine. Home to Dynamo Kiev. And, um, probably a bunch of other teams too. But I can't actually name any of them.

Nevertheless, I'm going to stick my neck out and predict good things for the Ukraine at the World Cup.

They won through a potentially very tricky qualifying group that included 2002 World Cup semi-finalists Turkey, European Champions Greece and the always competitive Denmark. In my view, this makes them no mugs at playing high-level competitive football and this should stand them in good stead going into the Finals themselves.

Secondly, the Ukraine's World Cup Group (H) is one that should see them progress through to the second round. Aside from Spain (who are always likely to implode or play like your grandfather) , the Group includes Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.

The Saudis are likely to be World Cup whipping boys. Their standard of football just isn't up to the rest of the group and Tunisia - despite being African Nations Champions 2004 - are definitely beatable with the quality that the Ukraine have, especially upfront.

The Ukrainian's not so secret weapon is Andriy Shevchenko - current AC Milan striker, one of the top goalscorers ever in the history of the Champions League and an unarguably top class player. He will score goals at the World Cup and that will ensure that the Ukraine gets to the second stage at least.

Even better, they're not a one man team - Keeper Shovkovski kept four successive clean sheets in qualifying and with the likes of Andrey Voronin (Bayer Leverkusen) and rising star Andrey Rusol, they have more quality than might be expected for such a small football country.

So, how far can the Ukraine go. Well, if they win the group, they will face the runners up of Group G (likely to be Switzerland or South Korea). If they finish runners-up in Group H, then they will most likely play France. I think it's quite possible that a Quarter Finals finish is within the grasp of the Ukraine.

posted by mark_s at 7:40 PM


Blogger Mr Ade said...

I expect Spain and Ukraine to qualify from this group. I will be very suprised if either Tunisia or Saudia Arabia make it through.

Mr Ade

10:58 PM  
Blogger mark_s said...

Agreed. Though Tunisia aren't a bad team, but they don't have the class of Spain or the Ukraine.

11:22 AM  
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