Life in Ukraine

Slovakia 1-2 Ukraine: Showing Some Fight at EURO 2024 with Yaremchuk scoring crucial goal


Ukraine never does it the easy way. Today, the team made amends for Monday’s defeat against Romania with a 2-1 comeback victory against Slovakia.

For the fifth time under Serhiy Rebrov’s year-long tenure, his side came from behind to win a competitive match. They are very much making a name for themselves as the so-called “comeback kings.”

The match at the Düsseldorf Arena was very much a game of two halves. Ukraine, who started the game with four changes from Monday’s match, were slow out of the blocks in the first half, and after some problematic defending, Slovakia went ahead. Many already anticipated a repeat of Monday, but luckily Ukraine remained in the game and crafted a few chances of their own.

Despite their efforts, a number of players just weren’t up to it in the opening 45 minutes, even though the opponent’s style allowed Ukraine to break quickly on the counterattack.

In the mixed zone post-match, Benfica and Ukraine goalkeeper Anatoliy Trubin didn’t want to reveal too much about what was said in the changing room at the break, but whatever was said certainly did the trick.

Rebrov’s men looked like a completely different outfit when they headed out for the second half. Shaparenko looked like a man possessed. A ‘second wind’ saw him suddenly put in a lung-busting performance. He showcased that extra yard of pace and tenacity that was missing from the previous three halves of football that he and his team had played. He ultimately scored the equalizer as Dovbyk, Sudakov, and United24 ambassador Zinchenko combined well to see the Arsenal defender pull it across the penalty area for Dynamo Kyiv’s Shaparenko to finish.

Ukraine’s fans put in a much more commendable showing this afternoon, regularly out-singing their Slovak counterparts. They genuinely added that ‘12th man’ within the ground. Many had arrived from across Germany, including North Rhine-Westphalia, where a large concentration of the diaspora lives. Others came from as far as the USA and Canada to catch a glimpse of the Zbirna.

Additionally, there were veterans of Azovstal in attendance, invited by UAF to watch the game. Elsewhere in the stands, a number of supporters took part in a t-shirt flash mob action promoting the HUR initiative ‘I want to live’ by spelling out the initiative's name across eight people. This initiative aims at persuading Russian soldiers to surrender as prisoners of war.

Shaparenko’s equalizer breathed new life into the fans and fellow players. That confidence and slight swagger had returned. Ukraine had the better wing play and looked sharper until the end of the match. After Roman Yaremchuk came on for birthday boy Artem Dovbyk, the Valencia forward added even more energy to the forward line. So much so that he expertly took down Shaparenko’s beautiful floated pass, controlled it on the run, and finished acutely past Slovakia’s Dubravka.

Cue pure pandemonium in the ground. That moment was something Ukraine as a country, and the team really needed after the so-called ‘anomaly’ of Monday. Well, hopefully, it was an anomaly anyway.

Yaremchuk was so emotional post-match that he broke into tears on the pitch. It’s no surprise that the war has impacted the Lviv-born striker heavily ever since Russia began its full-scale invasion over two years ago. His former CEO Rui Costa at Benfica told A Bola back in September 2022 that in the first few weeks of the war, Roman had fallen into a depression and lost 6kg in weight. Today’s tears proved that this tournament does mean something for these players. This was another chance to provide an uplift in spirits, a minor but welcome one!

Speaking to Suspilne Sport after the Slovakia-Ukraine match, Roman Yaremchuk reiterated the difficulties surrounding the past few seasons of his career. “I suffered over the whole season, I’ve gone through many injuries over different periods in my career. But I never gave up, I knew that a moment like the one against Slovakia would come. I am proud that I work very hard for them. You should never give up, no matter what the moments are—you have to work, and God will bring you a gift.”

Ukraine’s group remains unbelievably tight. Three teams currently sit on three points. Romania and Belgium face each other in Köln tomorrow in what will be their respective second matches of the group.

At the moment, the Yellow-Blues' destiny is in their own hands. To have a chance of finishing in the top two in the group, they must beat Belgium in the final group game next Wednesday to secure an automatic spot in the knockout rounds.

If they lose or draw in Stuttgart, they will have to rely on results elsewhere to see if they can finish as one of the four best third-placed sides. That’s also dependent on Romania winning or drawing in their final group game against Slovakia. That would guarantee Ukraine a third-place finish if the results above end up occurring.

“Today it was very important to win for our country, for our fighters and fans. We are very proud of this result,” said Serhiy Rebrov in the post-match press conference.

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