Ukraine beat Switzerland 3-0 on penalties today in 2006
Swiss were first team to fail to score in a World Cup shootout
Ukrainians reached the quarter-finals in their tournament debut
The Round of 16 encounter between Ukraine and Switzerland at Germany 2006 will not feature on any compilation of classic matches. So dreary was the action in Cologne, in fact, that The New York Times’ headline cuttingly described it as ‘The World Cup game no-one deserved to win’.
But while 120 goalless minutes produced precious little excitement, history was made in the penalty shootout that followed. Switzerland will need no reminding. They, after all, became the first and, to date, only team to emerge from a World Cup shootout having failed to convert a single spot-kick. They were also the first team to exit the tournament without conceding a goal, having come into the match on the back of clean sheets against France, Korea Republic and Togo.
For Ukraine, a different kind of history beckoned. By keeping their cool in the shootout, recovering from an early miss by Andriy Shevchenko to triumph 3-0, they reached the quarter-finals in their first appearance at the World Cup.
It remains the high point in the history of a team that has failed to qualify for any of the three subsequent editions. And yet their success in the shootout came despite a chaotic build-up in which coach Oleg Blokhin, overwhelmed by the tension, turned his back on his team and headed for the dressing rooms.
"Usually the coaches ask the players: 'who is going to take one?', 'who is going to assume the responsibility?', 'who feels up to it?' But we didn't have a fixed list of penalty takers and we didn't even practise them before the game,” midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk told FIFA.com.
"After extra time I just told my team, 'You have to settle this amongst yourself who is going to take the penalties'," Blokhin admitted. “A penalty shootout is like Russian roulette. I didn't even see [the penalties]. After 120 minutes I couldn't cope with it."
Blokhin therefore missed the heroics of goalkeeper Oleksandr Shovkovskiy, and the successful penalties from Artem Milevskiy, Sergei Rebrov and Oleg Gusev – the man pictured celebrating the winning kick in the image above. “We fought so hard and we've come so far in this tournament, it is almost like a dream,” reflected their proud and tearful coach.
And while that dream would end in the quarter-finals with defeat to eventual champions Italy, Blokhin’s Class of 2006 left Germany with their places in Ukrainian football folklore firmly assured.