Judging by titles alone, the 2012/13 campaign was a resounding success for Anatoliy Tymoschuk. The midfielder won a historic treble with Bayern Munich, lifting the league, DFB-Pokal and UEFA Champions League titles. Yet anyone who knows the ambitious Ukrainian national team captain will be well aware that last season was not always enjoyable for 'Tymo', who made just 23 appearances for the Bavarians, frequently finding himself occupying a place on the bench come kick-off.
Conscious of the fact that, at 34, his playing days are drawing to a close, Tymoschuk decided to bring an end to his four-year spell in Munich, where he won a total of seven trophies, and return to Zenit St. Petersburg. Tymoschuk had a successful stint at the Russian club between 2007 and 2009 and is now keen for regular playing time again in order to help fulfil his next objective: participation at the 2014 FIFA World Cup Brazil™.
“It would be amazing to reach the World Cup and then to set ourselves a new target,” Tymoschuk told FIFA.com. “I’m confident that we’re good enough to do that.” Despite having almost 130 international caps, the holding midfielder is still hungry for more, spurred on by the memory of playing in all five of his country's games at Germany 2006. There, alongside players such as Andriy Shevchenko and Oleg Gusev, he led Ukraine into the quarter-finals, where they were knocked out by eventual champions Italy 3-0.
Just a few months ago the prospect of reaching Brazil 2014 appeared remote, as the team stumbled out of the blocks in European zone qualifying. Ukraine had chalked up just two points after their first three Group H fixtures, drawing with England (1-1) and Moldova (0-0), before falling to a shock 1-0 reverse against Montenegro.
Yet Ukraine rallied and three successive victories over Poland (3-1), Moldova (2-1) and a previously unbeaten Montenegro side (4-0) have fired the eastern Europeans back into contention. Ukraine are currently in third on 11 points, within touching distance of second-placed England (12) and just three points behind leaders Montenegro, who have played one game more.
It would be amazing to reach the World Cup and then to set ourselves a new target. I’m confident that we’re good enough to do that.
“I’m very satisfied,” said Tymoschuk, Ukraine's most capped player. “A lot of people had written us off after three matches as we were a long way behind with just two points. We didn’t start well and we lost a lot of points. Our three wins have put us back in it and have given us another chance.”
Brazil in sight
Ukraine’s run of form has turned their next two qualifying matches, on 6 and 10 September, into all-or-nothing encounters. Victory is expected over San Marino, before a decisive tie against England. “If we win both matches we’re in Brazil,” Tymoschuk stated. “But it won’t be easy as one of the opponents is England.”
Nevertheless, on paper at least, the road to Brazil appears relatively straightforward: four more victories are required from the remaining three home fixtures and an away game in San Marino. That, coupled with Ukraine’s direct rivals certain to take points off each other when they meet on 11 October, gives rise to Tymoschuk’s optimism that a second FIFA World Cup appearance is well within reach. “We’ve got every chance of going to Brazil,” he concluded.