June 11, 2012
Dream start for Ukraine's old star
By Morris Dalla Costa, QMI Agency
The old man of Ukrainian soccer has begun to write a fairytale ending to his career.
Andriy Shevchenko, the 35-year-old forward who has been Ukraine's soccer leader for years, scored two goals in the second half to give his team a dream start with a 2-1 win over Sweden in a Euro 2012 game played in Kiev Monday.
Shevchenko, a former AC Milan star, is ready to hang up his boots. There was speculation he would join Premier League Chelsea's coaching staff as an assistant coach but nothing has been confirmed.
Monday, Shevchenko The Old was like the Shevchenko of old. Gone were the aches and pains, the injuries that have plagued him as he's aged.
Not many believed Shevchenko would regain his form. But he became a prolific striker one more time, sinking Sweden in the process.
The win sparked a major celebration on the field as Shevchenko and fellow forward Andriy Voronin clutched each other on the sidelines as time wound down.
For Sweden, it was another disappointing effort on the big stage. The Swedes came into the tournament hoping to challenge England and France for a spot in the second round.
Now, with the loss, there is no room for error.
It was the first game for host Ukraine and it put together a stirring performance in front of a crowd that was primed and loaded for the show to begin. But what they wanted to see, a win by the home side, wasn't without some panic.
After a 0-0 first half, Zlatan Ibrahimovic gave Sweden a 1-0 lead in the 52nd minute.
That could have been bad news for Ukraine. The enormously talented Swede has never been a huge factor in major tournaments but, with momentum on his side, he would be difficult to stop.
And yet, Ibrahimovic petered out after his goal ... as did a lot of his teammates.
Even as the younger Swedish star wilted, Shevchenko stuck the knife in.
The Ukrainian icon allowed the Swedes to lead for three minutes before equalizing. Andriy Yarmolenko curled a ball in from the right and Shevchenko leapt ahead of Olof Mellberg to pound a header into the net.
The primal shout of joy by Shevchenko spoke volumes about the importance of Ukraine doing well in the tournament.
Shevchenko liked that goal so much, he scored another from the opposite side. This time he ghosted to the near post on a corner and whipped another header just inside the near post.
Shevchenko came out of the game in the 80th minute. But he'll be back Friday with an encore performance against France.