2009 Euro Youth Champions: Ukraine’s young guns shooting for Euro 2012
Ukraine’s national team will go into the coming Euro 2012 European Championships as one of the least favoured host nations in the competition’s history. Unlike Germany in 1988, England in 1996 and Portugal in 2004, few will be expecting Ukraine’s involvement to last long, with the country’s main contribution to the tournament likely to be the actual hosting of matches rather than winning them. However, Ukraine possesses a not-so-secret weapon in the form of the country’s emerging teenage generation, which shot to international recognition in August 2009 by winning UEFA’s Under-19s European Championship. Ukraine’s Euro 2009 youth victory was a major milestone in the development of the country’s footballing infrastructure and was the first victory Ukraine had recorded at any level since entering international football as an independent nation for the first time ever in the mid-1990s. This crop of teenage talent comes from the fast-improving youth team programmes of the country’s leading clubs.
Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of the current Under 19s squad is on the books at Ukraine’s two footballing super powers Dynamo Kyiv and Shakhtar Donetsk, with the rest drawn from clubs including West Ukrainian talisman side Karpaty Lviv. Star players include Dynamo Kyiv’s attacking midfielder Denys Harmash, whose two goals in the semifinal victory over Serbia and solitary strike in the final win over England thrust him firmly into the limelight. Much will now be expected from this ‘Class of 2009’ – and with most of the squad set to be approaching their 22nd birthdays around the time of the 2012 European Championships, there is a good chance that at least a handful of the country’s youth team stars will have a major role to place in the coming odyssey for Euro 2012 host nation glory.