Ukraine first appeared on the global futsal stage at the FIFA Futsal World Cup Spain 1996, where they confounded the pundits with a fine fourth-place finish after a narrow 3-2 defeat to Russia in the third-place play-off. The Ukrainians missed out on the finals in Guatemala four years later, but were present in Chinese Taipei in 2004, coming through the first group phase but packing their bags for home after losing out to Brazil and Argentina in the next round. Their UEFA Futsal Championship performance in late 2007 must rate as a disappointment, as Ukraine failed to collect a point and finished bottom of a group including Spain, Russia and Serbia.
The Eastern Europeans comfortably came through the first phase of qualifying for the FIFA Futsal World Cup Brazil 2008, taking maximum points from a group containing Israel, Moldova and Bulgaria. A solid team performance in support of top marksman Il'Dar Makayev earned Ukraine an eliminator against Hungary, where they won the home leg 3-1 but were pushed all the way in the second meeting, needing late goals from Fedir Pylypiv and Dmytro Silchenko to secure a third FIFA Futsal World Cup appearance.
Sealing a berth in Brazil represents a first milestone on the road to recovery after a desperately disappointing showing at the European championships last year. However, coach Gennadiy Lysenchuk's team is nothing if not resolute, and Ukraine are unlikely to be satisfied with a supporting role at the finals in South America.
Facts and Figures
Oleksandre Mosakaliuk (1996), Ole Bezugly (1996)
Ukraine's haul of maximum points from three matches with 14 goals scored and only three against in the group stage was powerful confirmation of the team's ability. The final qualifying play-off was a much closer affair, the nation which finished fourth at the 1996 finals edging to a 6-5 aggregate win over Hungary.
The numbers game
3 - they say all good things come in threes, but only time will tell if that applies to Ukraine's third shot at the FIFA Futsal World Cup.