Ukraine followed up Wednesdays uninspiring friendly international victory over Moldova, with a very disappointing home defeat against Slovakia in their opening Euro 2016 Qualifier.
Mykhaylo Fomenko came into the tie with the only blip on his record being the play-off 2nd leg against France and much confidence surrounding him and his team.
Warning signs did appear for some however with the line up on Wednesday. Through the World Cup 2014 Qualifying Campaign, Fomenko had a favourite XI. Barring injuries it was this same XI that started against Moldova, and again yesterday evening against Slovakia.
International management draws a fine line between today’s results and the potential of a player in two years time. With France 2016 two years away, the question must be asked, if a player today is 32/33, will he be an important player in two years time.
Anatoliy Tymoschuk is a legend. He is Ukraine’s record appearance holder he is Ukraine’s captain, he was a leader even during Andriy Shevchenko’s captaincy. as a manager, you know exactly what you will get from Tolyk… So why play him against Moldova? There is young blood coming through for Ukraine and unfortunately, Fomenko failed to use the opportunity against Moldova to properly test some of this blood.
Tymoschuk is the most notable and extreme example of a senior player, but questions must be raised over the continued selection of the likes of Edmar (34) and Vyacheslav Shevchuk (35). There are definitely younger players (Bezus and Makarenko for example) who are more than capable of taking over from their senior partners. It is questionable of Fomenko as to why he persists with players who will be over 35 and passed their peak come the next tournament.
Ukraine have also lacked a striker who is has as good a record as Andriy Shevchenko. The current highest scorer in the squad is wideman Andriy Yarmolenko with 15 goals.
Roman Zozulya is Fomenko’s favoured man upfront, although he offers a service of trying to hold the ball up, he is not the tallest or packets striker nor is he prolific.
Albeit early in the campaign, Artem Kravets and Olexandr Gladkyi have shone at the start of the UPL, yet neither were called upon against Slovakia. Gladkyi played a part against Moldova but Kravets was not even included in the squad.
The notable absences of Yevhen Konoplyanka, Denys Garmash and Ruslan Rotan cannot be denied, however Ukraine should have had more than enough about them to win yesterday evening. The delight on of the Slovakian players was evident to see at full time as even they appreciated this was a crucial victory.
Fomenko has a fantastic run in World Cup 2014 qualifying up until that infamous night in Paris, but he must not rest on the past and he must be prepared to evolve his squad and move forward.
Given the new format to Euro 2016, it is still anticipated that Ukraine should qualify for the competition. It must be hoped that this will serve as a wake up call and that Ukraine will bounce back with six points from Octobers fixtures to get on track for qualification. It will also be a good to see Fomenko be flexible and show his adaptability to the situation and accept it is time for a generational shift for Zbirna Ukraina.
by Peter Chymera, Vice-President of the UK Ukrainian Sports Supporters Club and Co-founder of the Viktor Leonenko Hall of Fame. Follow Peter on twitter – @PMChymera89