Match Preview: Saudi Arabia v Ukraine

Ukraine star Andriy Shevchenko believes his side must prepare for each of their remaining group matches as though it is the World Cup final, starting with Saudi Arabia on Monday in Hamburg.

    Ukraine trains after thrashing by Spain

    "We still have a chance. So we will play each of our games like it is the last one," said Shevchenko, who joins the free spending English club Chelsea next season.
    "The game with Saudia Arabia is our last chance, and we are going to prepare for that game with that in mind.
    "If we play two successful games, then we will have a chance to advance out of our group.
    "Now for us that is the main goal. The competition is between three teams and we will compete for that. For me it's no secret and we have two more matches."

    The former Soviet Republic’s tag as a possible dark horse took an absolute pummelling after their 4-0 hammering at the hands of Spain.

    The striker, who is moving from AC Milan, admitted his mother didn’t watch the first game due to worry and his father’s blood pressure skyrocketed as his son’s side was given a baptism of fire by a rampant Spanish side.

    In order to restore some confidence the Ukrainians have chosen to remind themselves of how they got to Germany and collectively accept blame for the aberration.

    "Throughout qualifying the entire team defended very well," argued the former Dynamo Kiev player.

    "It let through almost no balls and always was looking for approaches to attack.
    "Everything worked out for us then, but this time it didn't work out.
    "I think the entire team did not play particularly well, including me. I am the first person to admit that."

    Weak team

    In no mood for the usually obligatory praising of opponents Saudi Arabia coach Marcos Paqueta came out guns blazing.

    "Ukraine is a weak team," said the Brazilian, momentarily overlooking the fact that his side has not won a World Cup match since their first appearance in 1994.
    "The Saudi players have to benefit from Ukraine's bad situation to get a good result," he said.
    "Ukraine have to change the way they play because they need to score goals so they can qualify."

    The lack of Ukrainian attacking presence during the Spain game was evident, with the European debutants only having two shots on target during the entire 90 minutes.

    The man most responsible for remedying that will be Shevchenko who in recovering from a knee injury believes he will be better for the game time against Spaniards.

    "I'm glad I played the full 90 minues after not being in action for such a long time," he said.

    "The knee was fine but my physical condition is still a long way from my optimal form, but I need to  play games to get that form."

    Record books

    Saudi Arabia will also be hoping to have as much impact from their bench through striker Sami al-Jaber, a veteran of four World Cup campaigns, who joined an elite club when he came off the bench to score against Tunisia.

    Sami al-Jaber: on a diet of World
    Cup goal scoring

    The 34-year-old became only the third player to have scored at World Cups 12 years apart, joining Pele and German great Uwe Seeler.

    Both scored their first World Cup goals in 1958 and last in  1970, meaning al-Jaber, who puts his longevity down to a special diet and employing a fitness trainer, is the first to achieve the feat in 36 years.

    "It's great to help the team just immediately after getting on the pitch. Things like that don't happen every time," he said.

    "We were not lucky (against Tunisia), because we should have won the match but we conceded a goal late in injury time while we were dominating the match. But in the end, that's football."
    With three teams realistically fighting to join Spain in the next phase a win is a must for both teams in this match.

    Saudi Arabia are still looking to wipe away their humiliation from the last World Cup, while the Ukraine’s was more recent so with pride on the line a dramatic battle seems likely.

    SOURCE: Aljazeera + Agencies


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