Following two near-misses in FIFA World Cup™ qualifying, Ukraine booked a place in the 2006 edition of the tournament in commanding fashion. Coach Oleg Blokhin and his men were the first Europeans after hosts Germany to book a place at the showcase event after successfully advancing from a difficult group.
After the 1991 break-up of the Soviet Union and subsequent founding of the Football Federation of Ukraine, the Ukraine national team first entered a preliminary stage for the FIFA World Cup finals in 1996/97, ahead of the 1998 finals in France.
The eastern Europeans' first attempt ended with them placed second in their group behind Germany but above Portugal and Northern Ireland. They subsequently lost to Croatia in the play-offs and failed to make it to France, and there was a repeat performance before Korea/Japan 2002 when they went down in the play-offs again, this time to Germany.
After failing to qualify for UEFA EURO 2004, former Soviet international and 1975 European Footballer of the Year Blokhin succeeded Leonid Buryak with the task of leading his country to Germany, which he did with style. There, wins over Saudi Arabia and Tunisia, by 4-0 and 1-0 scorelines respectively, sent the Ukraine through to the Round of 16, where they eliminated Switzerland on penalties before a loss to eventual champions Italy in the quarter-finals.
Blokhin stepped down as coach in December 2007, and was replaced by his former Soviet Union team-mate Alexei Mikhailichenko the following month. The undoubted ace in Mikhailichenko's pack remains Andriy Shevchenko, although the prolific striker is now ably assisted by Anatoliy Tymoshchuk and Andriy Voronin. With the dependable Oleksandr Shovkovskyi residing between the sticks, they will be hopeful of securing a return to the FIFA World Cup finals in 2010.