Vadim Furnamov –
On May 31 the Football Federation of Ukraine announced manager Mykhaylo Fomenko’s squad for the upcoming European Championships in France. This is the third major international tournament in which the Ukrainian national team will take part. There were both surprise inclusions and omissions in Ukraine’s Euro 2016 squad.
Reversal on Russia-based players
There was plenty of controversy surrounding the exclusion of Russian-based players from the team back in March for the friendlies, but in the end three of these players were included in Fomenko’s squad. Oleksandr Zinchenko, Bohdan Butko, and Yevhen Seleznyov were all left at home for Ukraine’s March friendlies against Cyprus and Wales. When none of them were included in the provisional 26-man squad that flew out to Ukraine’s training camp, it appeared a foregone conclusion that they would not be part of Fomenko’s plans.
In an unexpected reversal, however, all three were soon called up and were featured in Ukraine’s 4-3 victory over Romania on Sunday. Apparently, they impressed Fomenko enough to warrant places on the 23-man squad. “Today’s match showed that we had a good reason to pay attention to this trio,” the manager said in the post-match press conference. “They clearly strengthen the competition for a place in the squad.”
Both Seleznyov and Butko are now back at Shakhtar Donetsk (although officially their contract doesn’t start untill July 1), but in Seleznyov’s case his transfer to Shakhtar was announced before his initial exclusion from the squad. Butko’s time in Russia meanwhile was a loan spell that expired at the end of the season. In other words, their decision to return to Ukraine is unlikely the reason for their call-up.
Whatever the reasons behind these decisions, and whoever was pulling the strings, Zinchenko, Butko, and Seleznyov will now all be going to France.
Tymoshchuk – Still selected at 37
At 37 years of age, captain Anatoliy Tymoshchuk is the oldest player’s in Fomenko’s side. The inclusion of Tymoshchuk, who is Ukraine’s most capped player, was not particularly surprising, but there are plenty of detractors. Tymoshchuk is older, and plays in the comparatively weak Kazakh Premier League, and is a defensive midfielder—the one position in which Ukraine is not lacking.
But Fomenko’s decision is a sensible one. Despite his age, Tymoshchuk is still a regular starter at Kairat Almaty and regularly plays the full 90 minutes. Moreover, while he is primarily a defensive midfielder Tymoshchuk can also play at center back if needed. It is a role that he has covered at both Bayern Munich and Zenit Saint Petersburg in the past, and as Fomenko is bringing only three center backs to France, this extra insurance is needed. Lastly and most importantly are Tymoshchuk’s experience and leadership qualities, which are unmatched by anyone else in the side.
Kravets and Husyev – Surprising Omissions From Ukraine’s Euro 2016 Squad
As for the players who were excluded, the most glaring omissions from the squad are striker Artem Kravets and winger Oleh Husyev. Even with the last minute selection of Seleznyov it was widely expected that Fomenko would send home Pylyp Budkivskiy. In the end, however, 26-year-old Kravets was the casualty. Kravets’ poor form is surely the only explanation. In the last half season spent at VfB Stuttgart Kravets found the net just once. Though admittedly Kravets was playing in a much tougher league, it appears that for Fomenko, Kravets’ abysmal scoring record when compared to that of his rivals was enough to leave him off the team.
The omission of Husyev, however, is difficult to rationalize. He had an excellent season, with 13 goals and two assists in all competitions. Husyev is also a highly versatile player. He can play on either the wing, either in midfield or as a fullback. Other than the guaranteed starters of Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka, Fomenko is bringing just one wide player to France: Oleksandr Karavayev. The only knock on Husyev is that he is 33 years old and often struggles to complete 90 minutes. But no one expected him to be a starter, and surely he would have been useful as an option off the bench.
The Midfield Trio?
Much of Ukraine’s starting eleven is already established. Andriy Pyatov in goal, Artem Fedetskiy, Yaroslav Rakitskyi, Yevhen Khacheridi, and Vyacheslav Shevchuk as the back four, Yarmolenko and Konoplyanka on the wings, and one of Roman Zozulya or Seleznyov as the lone striker.
As for the midfield trio, however, there are still questions that surround this area of the pitch for Ukraine. In the first half against Romania the midfield was made up of Taras Stepanenko, Serhiy Rybalka, and Serhiy Sydorchuk. All three are holding midfielders, and the results was a very dull performance void of any creativity.
At halftime Fomenko brought on Zinchenko for Rybalka, and the effect was instantaneous. It took Zinchenko just three minutes to score his first goal for the national team, thereby becoming Ukraine’s youngest ever goal scorer at the age of just 19.
Outside of his contribution on the scoresheet, Ukraine looked a much more dangerous and sharp side with a legitimate attacking threat in the midfield. Zinchenko is not the only option for this role. The 20 year old Viktor Kovalenko from Shakhtar is also more than capable of instilling the midfield with a creative presence.
Ruslan Rotan, who is captain in absence of Tymoshchuk, came off the bench against Romania and is a very likely starter, as is Stepanenko. The other spot is still up in the air. Friday’s friendly against Albania may provide some insight into Fomenko’s plans for the tournament, but we’ll have to wait until June 12 in Lille, where Ukraine will face tournament favorites Germany, for a definitive answer.
Ukraine’s Euro 2016 Squad for the European Championships:
Goalkeepers: Denis Boyko (Besiktas Istanbul), Andrei Pyatov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Mykyta Shevchenko (Zorya Luhansk)
Defence: Bohdan Butko (Amkar Perm), Yevhen Khacheridi (Dynamo Kyiv), Artem Fedetskyi (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Oleksandr Kucher (Shakhtar Donetsk), Yaroslav Rakitskyi (Shakhtar Donetsk), Vyacheslav Shevtchuk (Shakhtar Donetsk)
Midfield: Denys Garmash (Dynamo Kyiv), Andrei Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kyiv), Oleksandr Karavayev (Zorya Luhansk), Viktor Kovalenko (Shakhtar Donetsk), Yevhen Konoplyanka (FC Sevilla), Ruslan Rotan (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Sergei Rybalka (Dynamo Kyiv), Serhiy Sydorchuk (Dynamo Kyiv), Taras Stepanenko (Shakhtar Donetsk), Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Kairat Almaty), Oleksandr Zinchenko (FC Ufa)
Forwards: Pylyp Budkivskyi (Zorya Luhansk), Roman Zozulya (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Yevhen Seleznyov (Kuban Krasnodar)
Vadim Furmanov is a recent graduate of the University of Chicago with a Bachelor’s Degree in Political Science. Originally from Ukraine, Vadim has resided in Chicago since 1994 and is a passionate supporter of both Dynamo Kyiv and the Ukrainian national team. He is also a Chicago Fire season ticket holder and a member of the Fire’s Section 8 supporters group. He writes primarily about Ukrainian football, as well as the intersection between football, politics, and history. You can follow Vadim on Twitter @vfurmanov.