The Ukraine coach, Oleg Blokhin, has promised that England will face a far tougher battle at Wembley tonight than in their first 2014 World Cup qualifier.
England have not faced many more passive opponents in recent years than the Moldova side they beat 5-0 in Chisinau on Friday. While Blokhin could not last night promise his team would win this evening's game, he did say they would be more competitive than Moldova were.
"We respect England and we will try to beat them, but I can't promise you we will," Blokhin said yesterday. "We come here to fight and what the result will be we will see tomorrow. If we are in the same position Moldova were, then we will lose 8-0 because they lost the game before they came on to the pitch.
"I banned my team from watching England v Moldova, because one team dominated the whole match, there was no point in watching. So I am preparing the players to play football and we will see what the result is."
Just three months ago England beat Ukraine 1-0 in Donetsk in the European Championship. Now the teams meet at Wembley, Blokhin hopes that the pressure will be on the hosts. "I think there will be pressure on England whether they want it or not," he said, seeing less pressure on his own team.
"Perhaps the same situation as when we were in Donetsk, and supported very well by our fans, perhaps now it is the opposite for England," Blokhin suggested. "Our pressure is our only pressure, we need to start the tournament well. We understand very well if we win , nothing changes, the competition is only starting."
In that game in June, a shot by Marko Devic crossed the line but no goal was awarded after Wayne Rooney had put England ahead. Blokhin will not let frustration at that result distract his players today. "We look at each game individually, if we look at this as revenge we'd lose by now," he said. "Yes, we didn't get our goal counted. Such is life. Football is unpredictable. We have to move forward."
This is the start of a new era in Ukrainian football, following the retirements of Andrei Shevchenko and Andrei Voronin. They have young attacking talent in wingers Yevhen Konoplianka and Andrei Yarmolenko. "When I consider those young players from the European Championship," Blokhin said, "they have nothing to fear they just have to come out and play. And not just the young players, but the ones who are 30 years old too."Reuse content