Young Gunner Djourou has Shevchenko in his sights

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The Independent Online

Join the Arsenal and see the World Cup. A third member of Arsène Wenger's army of prodigies is poised for a starting role in the tournament tonight - and Johan Djourou is likely to have the unenviable task of shackling Andriy Shevchenko as Switzerland contest a quarter-final place with Ukraine in Cologne.

Like his fellow 19-year-old from Arsenal, Spain's Cesc Fabregas, Djourou had to be content with bit-part roles during the group games. But the misfortune of yet another young Gunner, 21-year-old Philippe Senderos, has put the Ivory Coast-born defender in the frame to face the £30m Shevchenko on his full competitive debut for the Swiss.

Senderos suffered a dislocated shoulder in his country's 2-0 win over South Korea and doctors estimate he will be out for six weeks. Djourou, who replaced him for the final 37 minutes, was calmness personified when reporters asked how he planned to deal with the former European Footballer of the Year and the Chelsea newcomer Shevchenko.

"I don't think there's any particular way to cope with him," said Djourou, the son of a Swiss mother and Ivorian father. "He's a great striker, but the important thing for me is to relax and play my own game. If I were frightened of facing Shevchenko it would only make things easier for Ukraine."

Djourou, whom Wenger snapped up from Etoile Carouge of Geneva in 2004, won his first cap three months ago in a friendly against Scotland. He has been restricted to two substitute outings in Germany yet is undaunted by the company he is now keeping. "I think I've already demonstrated my ability to perform at this level," he said. "I'm very cool about this game."

He sympathised with Senderos over being ruled out of the rest of the tournament, saying: "Philippe is disappointed and I can understand that. It hasn't been his lucky season because he also missed out on the Champions' League final. But I've dreamt of playing in a World Cup since I was 10 years old. It's already been an amazing experience, one that I'll never forget."

Djourou will slot into a back four that has not conceded a goal during the finals - the only nation with such a record - after arriving here without a single clean sheet in 22 World Cup matches. Switzerland's defending has certainly improved since their previous appearance in the last eight. In 1954, they had one foot in the semi-finals when they led Austria 3-0 on home soil, only to succumb to a 7-5 defeat.

Since Ukraine's goal has fallen in only one of their seven games this year - the 4-0 blip against Spain - it may be inadvisable to expect any rugby scorelines this time. Oleg Blokhin's side are the last survivors from Eastern Europe, a source of pride to Shevchenko. "It's massively important we got to the second round," he said. "If we keep showing heart, with our fans behind us, we can go even further."

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