Andriy Yarmolenko was once a homesick youngster who feared he'd never make it as a footballer, but now finds himself key to Ukraine's hopes of beating France and reaching the World Cup finals.
The career of the 24-year-old winger is flourishing and some of Europe's top clubs have already expressed their desire to sign him.
But a decade ago he considered hanging up his boots after his first appearance in Dynamo Kiev colours ended in a complete failure.
Yarmolenko, who, according to his mother, began practicing with a ball at the age of four, tried out his skills with Dynamo at the age of 13 but, after just a year in the Ukrainian capital, he decided to return home to his hometown of Chernigov.
"At that moment I just wasn't physically strong enough and was missing my parents too much," Yarmolenko said.
"Probably I came to Kiev too early. Later I understood that my decision to come back home was right."
Yarmolenko's second chance at Dynamo Kiev was more successful but, after making his debut in the first team in May 2008, the young left winger was repeatedly criticised for squandering clear scoring chances too often.
But, with the passage of time, Yarmolenko's consistency has paid off as the footballer slowly but surely progressed to win a place in the line-up.
"Andrei (Yarmolenko) is a true talent generously gifted by nature," the legendary Soviet forward, and Dynamo's current coach, Oleg Blokhin said.
"He has everything he needs to be a classy attacking player. He's fast, he's skilled and he has an outstanding killer instinct.
"He's very important player both for Dynamo and for Ukraine's national side."
Yarmolenko made his international debut in 2009 in a World Cup qualifier against Andorra, scoring on his first appearance for Ukraine.
Then, in a friendly against Uruguay in 2011, he set a national team record by scoring when the match was just 15 seconds old.
On Friday, Yarmolenko, who has 13 goals from 36 internationals, will be a key player as Ukraine meet France in the first leg of their World Cup play-off.
He insists the French will be overwhelming favourites to reach the 2014 finals in Brazil.
"It's banal to say that there are no weak opponents in the World Cup play-offs but France look clear favourites," Yarmolenko told AFP.
"Having plenty of classy footballers, who have the experience of playing with top European sides, France are extremely dangerous rivals.
"But all of our team's players are set to show their best in the upcoming encounters."
National coach Mikhail Fomenko has been singled out for praise by Yarmolenko.
"The main improvement was that he managed to unite us and make us believe in the possibility of winning a place in the finals," said the Dynamo Kiev star.
"I think that the strong character and our team's cohesion are currently our best features."
Fomenko said he considered Yarmolenko to be one of his team's true leaders and was counting on his leader's nature in Friday's and Tuesday's matches.
"All of my players are valuable," he told AFP.
"But Yarmolenko is without doubt worth his weight in gold. He's a true fighter, who can boost his teammates' morale and his presence in the team is very important. Yarmolenko is a true talent and one of our team's undisputed leaders."