2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

2006 FIFA World Cup Germany™

9 June - 9 July

2006 FIFA World Cup™

Rebrov: No Spain, no gain

Looking back to the first round of group matches, who would have guessed then that Ukraine would be marching on to the Round of 16 while the Czech Republic looked on enviously from home?

To say that the two sides enjoyed contrasting fortunes would be something of an understatement, with the Czechs having crushed 2002 quarter-finalists USA just 48 hours before Oleg Blokhin's side endured a humbling 4-0 reverse at the hands of Luis Aragones' Spain.

Yet here we are, and here too are Ukraine, their FIFA World Cup dreams very much intact. If there is a moral to this story, it is, according to Serhiy Rebrov , that a defeat from which lessons are learned can often be as beneficial as a morale-boosting win, provided of course that it prompts the desired response.

That, he believes, was certainly the case for a Ukraine side who arrived in Germany with coach Blokhin confidently proclaiming, "We could be world champions" - only to suffer the rudest of awakenings.

Go to the Ukraine team page

Speaking exclusively to FIFAworldcup.com, Rebrov said: "I do think the defeat by Spain helped us in some respects. After the game we were all so disappointed, but we also came away from it determined to show that we were a much better team than we'd showed. I think we also learned a few things about what not to do at this level, that's for sure.

"One more I thing I should say is that we were lucky to play Saudi Arabia in our second game. I don't know what happened to them, if it was the early goal perhaps, but it surprised me how easily they were destroyed. I do think, though, that Ukraine showed that day that we can play some really good football."

The same, by Rebrov's own admission, could not be said for the Eastern Europeans' disjointed performance in a limp 1-0 win over ten-man Tunisia in their final group match. Nevertheless, with qualification at stake and just a point required, the Dynamo Kyiv attacker felt justified in insisting that for Ukraine the end was always likely to justify the means.

"We are just happy to be in the last 16," he said. "You don't need me to tell you that the Tunisia game wasn't very entertaining for the fans, but I think that we deserve credit for getting the job done in this group, particularly after what happened to us in our opening match.

"Our performance against Tunisia wasn't good enough to be completely honest, but we knew we had to get at least a point against a difficult opponent and, in the end, we won all three. So we've did what we'd set out to do."

Rebrov was also in agreement with Blokhin's assessment that the dismissal of Zied Jaziri, far from helping Ukraine, had adversely affected their concentration and sense of purpose. "I think after they went down to ten men there was a time in the game when we didn't know how to play," he said.

"Everybody understood that we had the advantage and that, really, we should be showing our ability, but we had to look towards the next match and that was why you didn't see the real Ukraine on show."

The only question now is whether the ‘real' Ukraine will return to face Switzerland in Cologne on Monday in place of the team dismantled by Spain and subdued by Tunisia. Rebrov's verdict? It simply must.

Nevertheless, the 32-year-old believes the outcome of Group G has provided an unexpected boon for him and his team-mates, with Switzerland evidently considered marginally less imposing opponents than the star-studded French.

"In general, I would say that it doesn't matter who you play at this stage because every team is tough," said Rebrov, who has 73 caps for Ukraine. "Even if we had got France, I wouldn't have been too worried because they are not in fantastic form. But I do think that playing against the Swiss or South Korea was always going to be easier than facing France or Spain, both of whom have some awesome players."

Encouraged by the identity of Ukraine's opposition, Rebrov is also pleased that the match will take place in the tighter, more atmospheric stadium in Cologne having sampled Berlin's Olypimastadion and found it not to his personal taste.

He said: "(The Olympiastadion) is a big stadium with a great pitch, but personally I don't really like it. I prefer to play in specialised football stadiums where the fans are right up against the pitch. When there is a running track, the players don't like it and neither do the supporters.

"During my time in England (with Tottenham Hotspur and West Ham United), I played in some really great, tight football stadiums and liked the atmosphere very much. So I'm looking forward to getting back to a stadium like that, although if we have to come back here for the Final, obviously I won't complain... "

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