The Ukraine national football team is a side which has become a force to be reckoned with since the fall of the Soviet Union.
Although they did not immediately present a threat to the more established football superpowers, they were placed 11th on FIFA's world rankings at their peak in 2007. The team still has a long way to go before they can be regular competitors for silverware however, they've certainly made great progress.
Ukraine's most famous footballer of all-time, Andriy Shevchenko, starred for Dynamo Kyiv and AC Milan, also enjoying a stint at Chelsea, where he was once the most expensive player in Premier League history.
Currently, Shevchenko is the manager of the national team.
Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic national team in the 1920s and 1930s
Ukraine had a national team from 1925 to 1935, playing as the Ukranian Soviet Socialist Republic. At that time, the Russian Soviet Federative Socialist Republic was a separate national team.
The earliest record of games which the Ukranian Soviet Socialist Republic played can be traced back to August 1928, but the side was eventually absorbed into the Soviet Union national team.
Ukraine national team's official formation and early years
Ukraine had to integrate itself into international football from scratch following the fall of the Soviet Union. Administratively, this was not a simple task, and although they played an international against Hungary as early as 1992, they only fully re-entered the international arena in 1994.
After a turbulent and unsuccessful Euro 1996 qualification campaign, Ukraine only narrowly missed out on qualification for the 1998 FIFA World Cup, losing to Croatia in the play-offs.
After an undefeated Euro 2000 qualification campaign, Ukraine once again had to settle for a play-off spot despite two draws against reigning world champions France. In the play-offs, they suffered a heartbreaking defeat to Slovenia and once again missed out on the chance to compete in their first ever major tournament.
Ukraine once again made the play-offs for the 2002 FIFA World Cup in Japan and South Korea. However, a 5-2 aggregate defeat to eventual finalists Germany saw them miss out on the finals.
They looked set to make the qualification play-offs for Euro 2004, as Spain were the only opponents in their group that were stronger than Ukraine on paper. However, eventual surprise champions Greece beat them to the play-offs and Ukraine were humiliated, failing to reach the qualification play-offs for the first time since Euro 1996.
The 2006 FIFA World Cup
After their failure to qualify for Euro 2004, Ukraine appointed Oleg Blokhin as their head coach. Initially, the decision was met with scepticism due to Blokhin's limited achievements in his coaching career and a general desire for a foreign coach.
However, Ukraine managed to secure qualification for their first ever FIFA World Cup by drawing 1-1 to Georgia in Tbilisi.
At the World Cup in Germany, Ukraine were drawn into Group H alongside Spain, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. They were hammered 4-0 by Spain, but beat Tunisia and Saudi Arabia to progress to the round of 16, where they faced Switzerland.
After beating Switzerland on penalties to qualify for the quarter-finals, Ukraine were beaten 3-0 there by eventual champions Italy.
Ukraine national team, Euro 2012 and Euro 2016
Ukraine failed to qualify for Euro 2008 after being drawn in a difficult qualification group featuring France and Italy.
Their performances improved in qualification for the 2010 FIFA World Cup, but they still fell short of reaching the tournament due to a play-off defeat at the hands of old tormentors Greece.
Ukraine co-hosted Euro 2012 along with Poland. They won their opening match 2-1 against Sweden in Kyiv, but then lost 2-0 to France and 1-0 to England in Donetsk, sending them packing from the tournament after the group stages.
Ukraine reached the qualification play-offs for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in Brazil, but were beaten by France 3-2 on aggregate despite a 2-0 home victory, meaning that they failed to reach the tournament once again.
However, Ukraine did manage to qualify for Euro 2016 after beating Slovenia in a play-off, avenging their Euro 2000 qualification play-off defeat.
At the tournament itself, Ukraine finished bottom of a group featuring Germany, Poland and Northern Ireland.
Ukraine missed out on qualification for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia, but qualified successfully for Euro 2020 and also won promotion to the top flight of the UEFA Nations League in the inaugural 2018/19 tournament's B-division.
Ukraine national team legends
Andriy Shevchenko remains the most distinguished legend in Ukranian football history and is currently in charge of the national team. He is their highest ever goalscorer with 48 goals and earned 111 caps, a total which was only bettered by Anatoliy Tymoshchuk.
Shevchenko is most famous for his spell at AC Milan. There, he was consistently among the best strikers in Serie A, winning the title in 2003/04, as well as the UEFA Champions League in 2002/03, prior to his Premier League record transfer to Chelsea in 2006.
Shevchenko scored the winning penalty in the 2002/03 UEFA Champions League final against AC Milan's fierce rivals, Juventus.
West Ham United's Andriy Yarmolenko, previously of Borussia Dortmund, is another well-known Ukranian footballer.
Ukraine have a rivalry with neighbours Russia and have also developed competitive rivalries with Slovenia and Greece given that they have met so many times in crucial fixtures.
Racism is a problem among a tiny minority of Ukranian football fans and there was a recent high-profile incident which saw Taison of Shakhtar Donetsk sent off for his reaction to racist abuse at the hands of Dynamo Kyiv fans.
Taison wrote on Instagram: "I love my race, I fight for colour, whatever I do is for us, for love. I will never shut up in the face of such an inhuman and despicable act!
"My tears were of indignation, repudiation and helplessness, helplessness that I could do nothing at that moment!
"But we are taught very early to be strong and to fight! Fight for our rights and for equality! My role is to fight, to beat my chest, to lift my head and keep fighting always!
"In a racist society, it is not enough not to be racist, we must be anti-racist! Football needs more respect, the world needs more respect! Thank you all for the support messages! We follow the fight."
- Sep 03, 2021
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