Strip Club–Mercy Dance Edition

Ukraine started qualifying for international competition as of the 1996 European Championships.  Success was hard to come by but a creditable third place finish in the group stage for the 2004 European Championships set the stage for a remarkable 2006 World Cup campaign.

Ukraine started qualification with a new coach, Dynamo Kiev hero Oleg Blokhin.  The club legend won eight League titles and two Cup Winners’ Cups and won the Ballon d’Or in 1975.  Playing internationally for the USSR, Blokhin appeared in two World Cups (1982 and 1986) and set the record for goals and caps.  Andy Dougan shed some light on the player in his book Dynamo: Triumph and Tragedy in Nazi-Occupied Kiev.

In that final in Basle (1975 UEFA Cup Winners’ Cup), Ferencvaros of Hungary were put to the sword in a 3-0 rout orchestrated on the field by the great Oleg Blokhin, possibly the finest player in the history of Ukrainian football.  Blokhin was a superb athlete who was also trusted to implement Lobanovsky’s tactical genius on the pitch.  

Drawn in a qualifying group with Albania, Denmark, Georgia, Greece, Kazakhstan and Turkey for the 2006 World Cup Finals, the Yellow Blues hit the ground running, earning eight points in their first four games.  Round 5 saw the Ukrainians travel to Turkey where they the demolished the hosts 3-0, giving the visitors a five point lead in the section.  They never relinquished this gap in winning the group comfortably, punching their World Cup ticket with three games remaining.

In reviewing the rosters between the Euro 2004 and World Cup 2006 qualifiers, the turnover was striking, especially in attack.  Gone were players I was familiar with like Rebrov and Voronin, and they were replaced by Gusev and Husin.  The front line was still lead by Sheva, by now a veteran, whose time at Milan was drawing to a close.

According to Wikipedia, the Ukrainian World Cup went something like this:

In their first World Cup, they were in the group H together with Spain, Tunisia and Saudi Arabia. After losing 0–4 in the first match to Spain (including this wonderful team goal from La Roja), Ukraine beat their other two opponents to reach the knock-out stage. In the round of 16, Ukraine played the winner of Group G Switzerland, who they beat on penalties. In the quarter-finals they were beaten 0–3 by eventual champions Italy.

Pld          W            D             L              GF          GA          GD          Pts

 Spain                    3              3              0              0              8              1              +7           9

Ukraine               3              2              0              1              5              4              +1           6

Tunisia                 3              0              1              2              3              6              −3           1

Saudi Arabia      3              0              1              2              2              7              −5           1



I will admit that this jersey is not an authentic, hell it’s not even a replica.  The shirt is a knock off, made of cheap material with no stitching or heat pressed logos or anything fancy.  It was a gift from a friend who went to the Ukraine on a mission trip and thought of me.

Shevchenko #7 is on the back.  What a player.  I remember seeing highlights from his time with Dynamo Kiev in the late 90’s and wondering, who is this guy?  Well I got to see him in full flight in the 1999 Champions League knockout stages as the Ukrainian club knocked out Real Madrid and came close to slaying giants Bayern Munich.  The first leg of that semi was one of the best games I’ve ever seen (and I still have it on tape).

Wrapping up on the jersey, it is what is.  Nothing spectacular and it doesn’t breathe particularly well due to the fabric but the shirt is a marker of my soccer past, and for that I am grateful.


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