26 June, 2006

Ukraine, You Saw, You Conquered: Switzerland 0 Ukraine 0 AET (Ukraine win 3-0 on penalties)

Neither Switzerland nor Ukraine were particularly impressive in qualification, though it is worth remembering that Switzerland are yet to concede a goal in this competition, and Ukraine have a potentially devastating weapon in Andriy Shevchenko.

The Swiss start the match brightly. Raphael Wicky unleashes a long-range shot after picking up a stray pass, testing Shovkovskiy in the Ukraine goal, and Alexander Frei causes problems for the defenders.

Ukraine comes closer, however, when Shevchenko dives for a low header, but his shot bounces up onto the crossbar and Switzerland survive the attack. Shortly afterwards Frei rattles the bar at the other end with a powerful free kick.

By now the Ukrainians have got over their shaky start and the rest of the half is a closely fought battle based around the midfield. Switzerland are still marginally on top but their opponents resist strongly and at half time there is still no score.

When they come out after the break Ukraine look much better and push the Swiss back. A Shevchenko free kick is deflected by the arm of a defender in the wall, but no penalty is given. Switzerland are fortunate again when Ricardo Cabanas gets away with stamping on Andriy Nesmachniy.

The Ukrainian attacks keep coming, though less frequently. Andriy Gusin heads just wide from a corner, perhaps the best chance of the match. Switzerland's attacks are rare but Zuberbuehler's goal remains intact for another 90 minutes and extra time is needed.

The half hour is surprisingly energetic, but the stalemate continues and we see the first penalty shootout of this competition.

Ukraine are first up. Shevchenko takes the kick but it is weak and easily saved by Zuberbuehler. Marco Streller takes the Swiss kick and his is equally poor and also saved. Artem Milevskiy finally gets one with a cheeky punt down the middle, and Ukraine have the advantage when Barnetta hits the bar.

Sergei Rebrov makes it 2-0 and when Cabanas plays another into the keeper's arms it falls to Gusin to take the kick that could send Ukraine through. He scores.

It has been an uninspiring game, largely thanks to the ultra-defensive Swiss performance, but the more positive side are through to face Italy in the next round.

1 comment:

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