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Ukraine V Sweden : UEFA Euro 2012 Match Preview
Swede Dreams for Sleepless Blokhin
Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin is a Ukrainian legend and he hopes that image will be further embellished with a successful campaign by the Euro 2012 co-hosts starting with his side's Group D match against Sweden on Monday.
While France v England is the glamour clash of the group both the sides battling it out here realise a decisive result in their opener would give the winners a great chance of upsetting the predictions and progressing to the last eight at the expense of the French or the English.
Blokhin, who was an outstanding player winning the European Footballer of the year accolade in 1975 when Ukraine was still part of the Soviet Union, has not had the best of results in the run-in to the championship but the 59-year-old believes they are irrelevant.
Certainly Blokhin, who guided an admittedly limited Ukraine side to the 2006 World Cup quarter-finals where eventual winners Italy knocked them out, has several players capable of causing the solid but unspectacular Swedes several problems.
Another Ukrainian football icon Andrei Shevchenko may be a shadow of the player that once terrorised top European club defences but another of his 2006 World Cup veterans midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk is still an effective force.
A win, a defeat and a draw
The long-haired midfielder - the country's most capped player with almost 120 caps - is brimming with confidence ahead of their entree into the tournament.
"We are set to win a place in the knockout round, it's a point which is not to be discussed. After that I see Ukraine in the final.
"It's a very tough task but I'm accustomed to ask for the impossible, it's a chance to obtain the maximum," he added, pointing to the example of the Greek side which unexpectedly won the 2004 European championship.
Blokhin, though, realises that his side are under the extra pressure of being the co-hosts and he has been doing everything in his powers to give them all the background on their opponents to alleviate some of the pressure.
"Of course I am excited - I don't know how I am going to sleep before the match. Before the match with Turkey I slept like a baby. But now I'll doubtless be watching videos through the night," he smiled.
For all Sweden's solidity they do possess a player who if in the mood can change the outcome of a game - AC Milan's Zlatan Ibrahimovic.
The trouble is neither his own team nor his opponents know what frame of mind he will turn up in, the one that scored a stunning goal in Euro 2004 aganst Italy or the moody, brooding one that so often has failed to shine in major games.
Sweden coach Erik Hamren, though, struck a gloomy figure and hardly an inspirational public mmessage to his squad when he declared earlier in the week that his side were the underdogs.
"We've played Ukraine three times in the last few years and we've won one, lost one and drawn the other. There's not much between the two sides," he said.
"But they've got the support of the home country. That's the reason why they're obviously favourites. Not many host countries lose their opening matches of the tournament."
Ukraine V Sweden - view commentary, squad, and statictics of the game live.
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