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    Co-hosts Ukraine with little hope on Euro debut

    Most of the media attention Ukraine has received in the lead-up to Euro 2012 has focused on the country's status as tournament co-hosts. Fears over the behaviour of supporters, threats of racism and there are still question marks over the security in the country.

    With less than four days left, Ukraine - ranked 50th in the FIFA World Rankings - will be making their first appearance at the European Championship. Their coach Oleg Blokhin, who took over last April, has insisted on several occasions that he has no illusions about his team's chances.

    Victories in friendly matches against Austria, Estonia and Bulgaria will give the side, who qualified automatically as hosts, a major boost, while a 3-3 draw in November against Germany will also offer them good encouragement. Ukraine have been clubbed with likes of England, France and Sweden in Group D and it looks highly unlikely that they will make progress to the next round.

    Gone are the days when Andriy Shevchenko was the man of the moment in club football. The ex-AC Milan star striker and former flop Chelsea forward is nearing the end of his career. During Euro 2012, the rest of the Ukrainian national team players may look up to him in the dressing room for his experience but he no more can help his team win single-handedly. And other players like Andriy Voronin and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk will have to turn back the clock to give the co-hosts a chance of progressing.

    The player who can be silver lining for them could be the young striker Andriy Yarmolenko. The young forward can operate up top or on the left-hand side and has been dubbed the next Shevchenko by sections of the Ukrainian media. With an impressive strike rate at international level having scored seven in 18, the Dynamo Kyiv man will be key if Ukraine are to progress from their group.

    Ukraine squad:

    Goalkeepers: Maksym Koval (Dynamo Kiev), Andriy Pyatov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Oleksandr Horyainov (Metalist)

    Defenders: Yevhen Selin (Vorska Poltava), Yevhen Khacheridi (Dynamo Kiev), Oleksandr Kucher (Shakhtar Donetsk), Vyacheslav Shevchuk (Dnipro Dnipropretovsk), Tara Mykhalyk (Dynamo Kiev), Yaroslav Rakitskiy (Shakhtar Donetsk), Bohdan Butko (Illichivets Mariupol)

    Midfielders: Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Bayern Munich), Denys Harmash (Dynamo Kiev), Oleksandr Aliyev (Dynamo Kiev), Oleh Husyev (Dynamo Kiev), Ruslan Rotan (Dnipro Dnipropretovsk), Serhit Nazarenko (Tavriya Simferopol), Yevhen Konoplyanka (Dnipro Dnipropretovsk)

    Forwards: Andriy Shevchenko (Dynamo Kiev), Andriy Voronin ((Dynamo Moscow), Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kiev), Artem Milevskiy (Dynamo Kiev), Yevhen Seleznyov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Marko Devych (Metalist)

    Recent Euro performances:

    2008 - Did not qualify
    2004 - Did not qualify
    2000 - Did not qualify
    1996 - Did not qualify

    Keep an eye on: Andriy Shevchenko, Andriy Yarmolenko

    Prediction: Though Ukraine will have a big edge playing at home as host nations often find a way out of the group stage, but with likes of France, Sweden and England as opponents, it's highly unlikely they can make through to the next stage.


    June 8, 2012: Ukraine vs France, Kiev
    June 11, 2012: Ukraine vs Sweden, Donetsk
    June 19, 2012:>/b> England vs Ukraine, Donetsk