- Serhii Buletsa scored the goal that booked Ukraine's place in the final
- The talented midfielder is the team’s attacking fulcrum
- Coach Oleksandr Petrakov: “There are no stars in our side”
“I’ve known these players for five years, and I can tell you that Serhii is an excellent player, but I’m not going to dwell on any individual performances tonight,” said Oleksandr Petrakov – not for the first time – at the press conference following his charges’ 1-0 victory in the semi-finals of the FIFA U-20 World Cup Poland 2019. “I’ve said it before, but there are no stars in our side.”
Since the beginning of the tournament the Ukraine coach has hammered home this point, whenever he has dealt with a question relating to individual players within his squad. It would, however, be remiss not to highlight the performance of midfielder Serhii Buletsa, who was as brilliant in Gdynia as he has been in every match so far in Poland.
He stung the gloves of Alessandro Plizzari in the first half, who had to be at full stretch to push away the Ukrainian playmaker’s dipping free-kick in the 37th minute. The Italian goalkeeper could do nothing to prevent his side from falling behind, though, as Buletsa made a well-timed run into the box in the 65th minute and dispatched a low cross from the right into the net.
It was the third goal of the tournament for the No10, who also has two assists to his name, which makes him the squad’s most influential attacking player.
First out of the dressing room after the game, the goalscorer was keen to reiterate his coach’s mantra.
“First off, I’d like to praise all of my team-mates,” he said. “We won as a team tonight. Our strengths are our togetherness and solidity. I’m very happy to have scored the goal, but really, it was the entire team that scored.”
Although this emphasis on collective efforts rather than individual talent may seem like a player simply toeing the party line, Ukraine’s fantastic run to the final of Poland 2019 is certainly proof that teamwork pays dividends.
Buletsa opened up a little more when asked about the jersey number he chooses to wear at the international level.
“I’ve always worn the No10 – ever since I started playing football when I was young,” he explained. “It’s something that gives me confidence, but it’s just a little psychological thing. I like Lionel Messi a lot; I’d love to reach his level.”
But wouldn't that signify him being a star?
“If that happens one day, it’ll be because my fans and coaches look at me that way," said Buletsa. "Not me.”
If Ukraine win the U-20 World Cup on Saturday, Buletsa may move one step closer to stardom.