Ukraine goes home proud after reaching last eight

HAMBURG, Germany -- Debutants Ukraine bowed out of the World Cup proud of reaching the quarter-finals although their style has won them few admirers.

Coach Oleg Blokhin's side exited the tournament after a 3-0 defeat by Italy on Friday but they had already surpassed their aim of qualifying from Group H and return home satisfied.

Among the dark horses after an impressive qualifying campaign in which they became the first European team to clinch a place at the finals, Ukraine never really sparkled on the pitch but they nevertheless managed to grind out results.

"We are completely happy with our performance," said Blokhin. "We did very well for the first time.

"We made it to last 16, to the quarter finals. As a coach I'm really happy with their performance."

Ukraine's campaign got off to a bad start with a 4-0 thrashing by Spain but they bounced back to beat Saudi Arabia by the same score and reached the second round after a pedestrian 1-0 win over Tunisia in their final group game.

They then beat Switzerland on penalties in the second round after a tedious scoreless draw to reach the quarter-finals.


Blokhin repeatedly faced questions from reporters asking why the team's football was so dull, lacking any flair in midfield and usually focusing on a rather defensive approach.

He said he liked their style and pointed to the results.

They probably showed some of their best moves during a 15-minute spell against Italy when they were only 1-0 down, and if one of the two shots that hit the woodwork had found the net it could have been a different game altogether.

In the end Ukraine's main problem was a lack of quality and depth in the squad. Although boasting one of the world's best strikers in Andriy Shevchenko, they lacked the playmakers to feed him decent passes and he never really showed his best form.

Shevchenko agreed that there had been some class missing from the side but said he was proud to be part of it.

"I'm so happy to play with these lads in this team," the striker said. "Ukraine gave a good account of themselves at the World Cup."

Now they have made their mark on the world stage, the Ukrainians vowed that they would be back again.

"There is a good future for the Ukrainian team," said Blokhin with a glow of satisfaction.