Mark Temnycky –
The Ukrainian senior men’s national team impressed during the 2020 European Championships. The Zbirna made history. During the tournament, Ukraine advanced out of the group stage for the first time. Ukraine also won their first knockout match, and they made their first appearance in the competition’s quarter-finals. Reaching this stage was a great achievement for Ukraine.
Several players performed to help Ukraine make history, but who were some of the players that stood out during the tournament? After researching player profiles on Transfermarkt and discussing this topic with Zorya Londonsk, a colleague of the Futbolgrad Network, the following footballers have been identified.
Emerging Forward: Roman Yaremchuk
The first and obvious choice was Roman Yaremchuk. During the 2020/21 season, the Ukrainian striker scored 23 goals in 43 appearances for Belgian club Gent. He has also been prolific for Ukraine, where he scored four goals in Ukraine’s eight EURO 2020 qualification matches. Most recently, the Ukrainian scored two goals in five games at this summer’s competition.
Over the past few seasons, the Ukrainian national team has struggled with the striker position as few have succeeded the legendary Andriy Shevchenko. While Yaremchuk has a long way to go, the young player has scored ten goals in 29 appearances. Should he continue his recent form, Yaremchuk could be well-positioned for the national team.
Given this form, it is no wonder why he is now attracting the demand of several European clubs. Having impressed at Gent, Yaremchuk is currently preparing for the next challenge in his career. AC Milan and West Ham United are reportedly interested.
Solid Defender: Ilya Zabarnyi
The young center back has had quite the career in a short period of time. Ilya Zabanryi made his first appearance with Dynamo Kyiv’s senior team during the 2019/20 season. Injuries to some of the club’s seasoned players, as well as Zabarnyi’s work ethic, helped him gain a place in Kyiv’s starting XI, and after a series of solid performances, the young Ukrainian did not look back.
Zabarnyi has solidified his position as a started for Dynamo. Dynamo made their first appearance in the UEFA Champions League after four years. During the 2020/21 season, he also played an instrumental role in helping his club win the domestic treble. His performances caught the attention of national team manager Shevchenko, and Zabarnyi became a regular starter during Ukraine’s 2022 FIFA World Cup qualification campaign, and their run at EURO 2020.
Having impressed for his club and country, Zabarnyi may fancy an early move outside of Ukraine. Given Shevchenko’s relationship with Roman Abramovich, Chelsea have emerged as the early contender for Zabarnyi’s signature.
Surprise Player: Mykola Shaparenko
One of the biggest surprises for Ukraine during EURO 2020 was Mykola Shaparenko. In the buildup to the competition, Shaparenko was often left on the bench as Shevchenko favored the likes of Oleksandr Zubkov and Serhiy Sydorchuk. This was also the case during Ukraine’s opening match against the Netherlands, where Shevchenko replaced the injured Zubkov with the older and more experienced Marlos.
Shaparenko was introduced in the final 30 minutes in the match against the Netherlands. It was then that Ukraine’s fortune turned around. The Ukrainians earned two goals in quick succession. While the Zbirna would still lose the match, Shaparenko’s performance earned him a place in Ukraine’s remaining EURO matches. He would form a strong defensive partnership with Serhiy Sydorchuk, and his performances against North Macedonia and Sweden helped Ukraine earn two important and historic victories.
The Ukrainian midfielder seems to have caught the attention of viewers outside of Ukraine. According to Transfermarkt, French club Olympique Marseille are interested in the Ukrainian midfielder. Whether these transfer rumors materialize will be another story.
Mykola Matviyenko, Viktor Tsygankov, and Vitaliy Mykolenko have been previously linked to moves outside of Ukraine. This has ranged from clubs within the Bundesliga to some of the English Premier League’s top clubs.
While they played a role in Ukraine’s historic run, these players struggled during the tournament. Matviyenko and Mykolenko were often beaten by some of Europe’s better players, most notably in the matches against the Netherlands, Austria, and England. Tsygankov also did not feature in Ukraine’s first match at the EUROs. When he was introduced in the games against North Macedonia, Austria, Sweden, and England, the young winger struggled to establish his footing.
Nonetheless, players have their respective off-days, and their talents should not be overlooked. These three players have been instrumental with Shakhtar Donetsk and Dynamo Kyiv, they may also find a new home outside of Ukraine. Time will tell if they are still being targeted by some of Europe’s bigger clubs.
Mark Temnycky is an AIPS accredited freelance journalist who covers the Ukrainian men’s national team and Ukrainian clubs competing in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League for the Futbolgrad Network. Mark covered Ukraine for Futbolgrad during the 2020 European Championships. Follow him @MTemnycky