Football: Coaches blamed for Ukraine upset

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The Independent Online
UKRAINE'S ELIMINATION from Euro 2000 by Slovenia on Wednesday means heads are likely to roll in the national set-up. Some 3,000 Slovenian fans stood in the snow at 2am yesterday to greet their heroes at Ljubljana Airport after the national side returned, but, throughout Ukraine, depression reigned.

"Tonight we all feel the bitter taste of lost hopes," a presenter on a television talk show said after the match. "This is a drama for all of us, but we have to recognise that the Ukrainian team played really weakly." Valery Nikonenko, a spokesman for the Ukrainian Football Federation, said: "The erroneous tactics of our coaches are to blame."

A senior UFF representative said the match might be the last in the career of national team coach Josef Sabo, blamed for the humiliating draw. But he and others said that not only Sabo would be under fire. "It remains to be seen if any of us will stay in the job," Leonid Buryak, the assistant coach, said.

Valery Lobanovsky, the coach of Dynamo Kiev, whose players make up the core of the international squad and who is officially the senior coach of all Ukrainian national teams, may also be forced to explain the defeat.

As thousands of grim, silent crowds left the Olimpiysky Stadium after the game a policeman said: "Today I feel like a child who lost his favourite toy."

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