Euro 2020 Lessons from Andriy Shevchenko's Ukraine

Ukraine reached the quarter-finals of the UEFA EURO 2020. It is a big deal for a team that only scraped through the group stage and got to the round of 16 because they were the fourth-best third-placed team. However, the team's omens were already lined up. In 2006, it qualified for the FIFA World Cup and hobbled to the quarter-finals.

Finding a Turning Point from a Discouraging Appearance

Five years ago, they went down to Poland courtesy of a solitary goal, completing a miserable Euro 2016 outing with three losses and not a single goal. Listless and uninspired, Ukraine's hopes during this edition rested on the shoulders of Andriy Yarmolenko or Yevhen Konoplyanka, craving that the two would do something spectacular.

While Yarmolenko made the team that turned for the 2020 edition, almost all else changed. The person responsible for this change is Andriy Shevchenko. The team's improvement under his watch is clear and his plan simple; implementing a 4-3-3 pattern with Taras Stepanenko at the base of midfield while Zinchenko and Ruslan Malinovskiy create opportunities in front of him.


Shevchenko's Retention Philosophy Pays Off

Shevchenko came to the job with his assistantship under Mykhaylo Fomenko as the only coaching item in his resume. However, he had a modern vision bred from his player days at Chelsea and AC Milan. He shared the lessons he learned under Alberto Zaccheroni and Carlo Ancelotti.

Shevchenko instilled the need to balance attacks and defense, maintain a compact approach, and play through medium- and short-range passes that guarantee extended ball control spells.

Success is a Delicate Blend of Belief and Reshuffling Plans

Despite missing out on the 2018 World Cup qualification, Ukraine stuck to its plans. This faith won them a promotion to the Nations League Group A and an unbeaten run during the Euro 2020 qualifying round, where they beat Portugal and Serbia.

In 2020, the results from the 4-3-3 format with Stepanenko at the base were not great.

Because of the sloppy show, Ukraine was downgraded from Nations League Group A, which prompted Shevchenko to modify his plans. In a World Cup qualifier against France, he preferred three players at the back. The technique earned him a draw.

He returned to the former format at the beginning of Euro 2020. However, Oleksandr Zubkov's injury shattered his plans, forcing him to resort to three players at the back.

Boldness and Flexibility Pay, Always

The ease with which Shevchenko altered his plans shows that he is both Flexible and Bold. He benched Malinovskyi, preferring to employ the deep-lying midfield pair of Sydorchuk Serhiy and Stepanenko assisted by Mykola Shaparenko.

The alignment pushed Zinchenko to the left wing-back, a plan that immediately paid since he scored the first midway through their game with Sweden and set up Artem Dovbyk for the winner during extra time.

Importantly, switching play as fast gave them an edge over their opponents the entire tournament. The win against Sweden reaffirmed the country's place in the quarter-finals and defined the new trail that Andriy Shevchenko blazed.
Joe David was born and raised in Lagos, Nigeria and writes more than good about football, preferably with a focus on African players and the success of African national teams on the football field.