Ukraine have become regulars at the FIFA Futsal World Cup over the past decade-and-a-half, missing out on just one of the tournament’s past four editions. Their first appearance came at Spain 1996, where they confounded gloomy pre-tournament expectation by finishing fourth, suffering a narrow 3-2 defeat to Russia in the third-place play-off. After missing out on the 2000 finals in Guatemala, the subsequent two editions have proved eerily similar. In both, the eastern Europeans have qualified with ease from the first group phase but then faltered in the next round, failing to pick up a single point from their three second phase matches at Brazil 2008.
Ukraine might have qualified for the FIFA Futsal World Cup, but theirs was by no means a trouble-free preliminary campaign, with a defeat to Azerbaijan preceding a narrow 5-4 aggregate win over Romania in the play-offs. By their own admission, they also fell short of expectations at the recent UEFA European Football Championship. Having declared their intention to win a medal, and been hailed as “lethal” by Spain coach Jose Venancio Lopez, they followed up an opening win over Slovenia by losing to the Spaniards and crashing out to their Croatian hosts on penalties at the quarter-final stage.
In attempting to take that crucial next step towards a place on the podium, long-serving coach Gennadiy Lysenchuk has attempted to reshape his side’s traditionally defensive and counter-attacking approach into something more aggressive. As he explained: “Today we are varying our tactics more. We are very good at pressing opponents; when necessary we can defend really well; and we are also strong at set pieces.”
Facts and figures
Maxym Pavlenko, Sergiy Cheporniuk
Qualification in numbers
Three wins and two defeats in the European preliminaries were enough to take Ukraine through, with the aforementioned defeat to Azerbaijan coming only after they had qualified from the main round with wins over Macedonia (2-1) and Croatia (4-1). In the play-offs, the hard work was done with a 4-0 first leg win away to Romania, although a 4-1 reverse in the return at home made their progression nervier than it should have been.
0 – The number of games Ukraine lost in their five-team first round section at Brazil 2008, emerging with victories over China PR, Egypt and Guatemala and a draw against Argentina.