Superstar status for Shevchenko

Ukraine's Andriy Shevchenko celebrates after winning a Group D Euro 2012 soccer match against...

Ukraine's Andriy Shevchenko celebrates after winning a Group D Euro 2012 soccer match against Sweden at the Olympic stadium in Kiev, June 11, 2012. (REUTERS)

MIKE ZEISBERGER, QMI AGENCY

, Last Updated: 6:20 PM ET

KHARKIV, UKRAINE - In a country saturated with statues, how long before one depicting national hero Andriy Shevchenko gets erected?

Such is the love-in the entire Ukraine is having with the national team striker, who easily is the most popular person within these borders after his two-goal performance in a 2-1 victory over Sweden Monday.

Whether you click on the TV, open up a paper or scan the internet, Andriy-mania is alive and well everywhere from Kiev to Kharkov.

Through it all, a Youtube video has surfaced showing Shevchenko being involved in a car accident in Kiev just three hours after the win over the Swedes.

Can you imagine the poor sap who was in the other car? Had Shevchenko been injured, the guy would have been Public Enemy No. 1, no matter whose fault the collision was.

Interestingly, in an interview with Sports Illustrated the other day, Shevchenko claimed he was "very interested" in playing in the MLS. His flirtation with a potential move from Europe to North America should come as no surprise, since he is married to an American model and named his first son after Michael Jordan.

But let's not get ahead of ourselves here.

After all, at the top of his agenda, of course, is a date against France Friday in what stands to be a pivotal game for both teams, in terms of reaching the final eight.

In the process, French manager Laurent Blanc has warned his team not to get sucked into all the Shevchenko hype, warning that focusing on just one player would be a significant tactical error.

"Sheva is someone I know well," Blanc said. "I was lucky enough to play against him and sometimes I wasn't happy because he was very difficult to mark.

"He no longer has the pace of a 20-year-old but he is so clever with the runs he makes and he showed that in first game. He demonstated how he can still be effective.

"It's up to us to be aware of his threat but Ukraine is a whole side and we must not focus just on Shevchenko. We know he likes to get on the opposite shoulder of the defender and is always in the right place at the right time.

"Great players show up at the big tournament and he's doing that, even at his age."

Although all of Ukraine continues to celebrate the win over the Swedes, Shevchenko, 35, knows it is time to move on.

"It (was) great day for Ukraine, but we still have two matches to prepare for," he said.

In the meantime, the romance between a striker and his native country will contine to swell.

mike.zeisberger@sunmedia.ca

twitter.com/zeisberger


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