World Cup 2022 is the most controversial tournament in football history. The first-ever winter finals will take place in the Gulf state of Qatar, a country accused of human rights abuses against its workers.
Despite the controversy, national football sides across the globe are still eager to reach the most prestigious tournament in world football. The Ukraine national side has the chance to make its first finals in 16 years, but can it eclipse the achievements of past Ukrainian sides? This article will look at its chances.
What they need to do this yearQatar is hardly a paradise for your typical football fans. Alcohol is subject to a ‘sin tax’, meaning that a pint of beer costs around €10, and betting establishments, including online casinos, are banned, which makes placing a bet on your favorite team extremely difficult. Still, Ukrainian fans will be eager to see their team compete in the finals.
But do they stand a chance?Right now, they are in the qualification play-offs, which take on a new format for 2022. 12 teams will compete in six semi-finals in March. The six victors will then take part in three finals to determine the three sides which qualify for the World Cup.
In Ukraine’s case, it could have been worse. They avoided big dogs Portugal and Italy in the draw and got Scotland instead. While the Brits will provide a tough two legs, it’s certainly not beyond Ukraine to get the better of them.
If they do that, Wales or Austria await them in the finals. This might be the tricky part: Wales are in good form and boast the likes of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey among their ranks. Austria, meanwhile, beat Ukraine at last summer’s Euros, which might give them the confidence to repeat the trick.
However, Ukraine is in solid, if unspectacular, form. They’re undefeated in seven games: a run which has only generated two wins, but also includes an impressive draw against France.
A fit and firing Andriy Yarmolenko and a stubborn defence may be enough to see them through. But how do they measure up to past Ukraine sides?
World Cup Quarter finals 2006Last summer’s run to the Euros quarter finals was the second-best achievement in the national side’s history. The only team that has eclipsed this feat was the 2006 side that managed to make it into the final eight of the World Cup.
The 2006 boasted the most prolific Ukrainian striking duo of all time – Andriy Shevchenko and Serhiy Rebrov. The pair guided the team through the group stages, including a 4-0 demolition of Saudi Arabia, in which they both scored.
The last 16 game against Switzerland was a tight goalless draw that led to penalties. In the lottery that followed, Shevchenko shocked the nation by missing his spot-kick, only for Rebrov to be one of the three scorers to take the team through to a quarter final showdown with eventual champions Italy.
While that match showed that Ukraine had run out of energy and inspiration, it did prove that it was probably its best team to date. Certainly, in attack, Shevchenko and Rebrov are better than anything the current team has. However, the 2021 eleven may just make up for that with sheer determination and will to win.
Euro 2012 Group StageA year on from their World Cup heroics, Ukraine was awarded joint-host status along with Poland for the Euro 2012 championships.
It was a proud moment for the nation and the build-up to the tournament was an exciting one. The team’s form before the finals, though, was mixed. An impressive draw against Germany was offset with disappointing defeats to Austria and Turkey, which took the wind out of the team’s sails ahead of the big occasion.
A scrappy opening win against Sweden was quickly forgotten as France and then England beat them and sent the team out in the group stage. Their only consolation was that the co-host Poland didn’t show them up – themselves crashing out at the first hurdle with a solitary point.
The 2012 side probably didn’t measure up to the current team, however. Yes, they had Shevchenko still in the ranks, but the legend was 35 years-old and not as prolific as he once was. He even quit football just after the tournament for a career in politics.
The verdictBy weighing up the teams of yesteryear and comparing them to today’s side, we might be able to get an accurate forecast of Ukraine’s chances ahead of the crunch qualifying games in March.
One thing for sure is that the current side is much more consistent than the team of 2012. Its ability to grind out results could position it in good stead over the key play-off games. Yet despite the talents of Yarmolenko and Oleksandr Zinchenko, it doesn’t quite touch the heights of the 2006 team, which could call itself one of the best 8 teams in the world. It also lacks a certain Andriy Shevchenko.
So, by placing the present team in between the two former sides, perhaps qualification is on the cards, followed by a strong group showing in Qatar. As for advancing to the knockouts: who knows? Ukrainian fans can dream.