World Cup 2006 Preview – Ukraine

Outright Odds: 66/1
Group H Winners: 12/5

This will be the Ukraine’s first major tournament they have qualified for since narrowly missing out every time following their independence in 1991. This time there was no messing about and they became the first European side to qualify for the finals, bar hosts Germany of course.

They suffered one defeat in 12 matches, at home to Turkey, but overall won a tricky group which also featured European champions Greece and perennial qualifiers Denmark with ease.

The Ukraine are managed by Oleg Blokhin, the 1975 European Footballer of the Year and USSR stalwart which saw him collect 109 caps and score 39 goals in the process. His tactics utilise the talents of Andrey Shevchenko but, more importantly, do not have to base every attack around the AC Milan forward as Blokhin prefers to use a 4-3-3 formation.

Shevchenko spearheads the attack admirably, with 28 goals in 63 international appearances, but he is capably backed up by Bayer Leverkusen’s Andrey Voronin and Shaktar Donetsk’s Andriy Vorobey who make up a devastating three-pronged attack.

The team do not just rely on Shevchenko’s goals. Like fellow qualifiers Serbia & Montenegro and Croatia, Ukraine’s success was also built around a solid defence which kept six clean sheets in a row which saw as many consecutive wins from October 2004 to June 2005.

Dinamo Kiev goalkeeper Alexandr Shovkoskiy can rely on his back four of team-mate Andriy Nesmachny, Shaktar’s Anatoliy Tymoshyuk and Dnipro pair Andrey Rusol and Vladimir Yezerski.

Ukraine supporters are optimistic about their chances, drawing parallels with the successful Croatia side of 1998 which finished third. They are talented enough and underestimation could prove costly to more “fashionable” opponents. Manager Blokhin has promised a semi-final appearance which will make a mockery of their 66/1 (Coral) odds.

Recommended Bet
Forget Spain, the Ukraine could be the genuine “dark horses” for the World Cup. They brushed aside quality opposition during the qualification process and are good value to win Group H at odds greater than 2/1. Let’s not forget about Andrey Shevchenko either and the AC Milan striker could mark his debut on the world stage as a genuine Golden Boot contender.

Ukraine to win Group H @ 12/5
E/W Andrey Shevchenko as top goalscorer @ 22/1

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