Euro 2024 team guides part 20: Ukraine

Euro 2024 team guides part 20: Ukraine

This article is part of the Guardian’s Euro 2024 Experts’ Network, a cooperation between some of the best media organisations from the 24 countries who qualified – is running previews from two countries each day in the run-up to the tournament kicking off on 14 June.


People in Ukraine are optimistic about Euro 2024. The tournament in Germany is more important than ever because every victory counts amid the continuing war, and this time the national team look competitive.

For the first time there will be a lot of players from the top leagues in Europe: Andriy Lunin (Real Madrid), Illia Zabarnyi (Bournemouth), Vitaliy Mykolenko (Everton), Mykhailo Mudryk (Chelsea), Oleksandr Zinchenko (Arsenal), Artem Dovbyk and Viktor Tsyhankov (Girona), Roman Yaremchuk (Valencia), Anatoliy Trubin (Benfica) and Ruslan Malinovskyi (Genoa). Ukraine are a fairly young team, though some of these players have enough experience of playing in big matches.

After their failure to reach the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, Ukraine looked solid in Euro 2024 qualifying, competing for automatic qualification with Italy behind a superior England. The two teams ended up on the same number of points (14) but Italy went through on head-to-head. The playoff games were tense with Ukraine needing two late goals in Zenica against Bosnia and Herzegovina to win 2-1 before another victory by the same score against Iceland in the final. Again they needed a late goal to win, showing the character in this team to keep going to the end.

This will be Ukraine’s fourth consecutive appearance at the European Championship, following disappointing showings in 2012 and 2016 and a commendable quarter-final finish in 2020. Now, despite being drawn with Belgium, Romania and Slovakia, they are expected to at least advance from the group stage and, under favourable circumstances, replicate the success of previous European Championship campaigns.

There are, however, concerns about the condition of key players: Zinchenko has had recurring injury problems and lost his place in Arsenal’s starting lineup; Mykolenko missed the end of Everton’s season, and it is still not known whether he will be fit by the start of the tournament in Germany; Mudryk sustained concussion in a recent Premier League game, while Heorhiy Sudakov, Taras Stepanenko and Andriy Yarmolenko have had issues, too.

The coach

Serhiy Rebrov is considered one of the best coaches in Ukraine. During his 10-year coaching career he has won two league titles with Dynamo Kyiv, competing against the financially stronger Shakhtar, and secured domestic success with Ferencvaros in Hungary. However, coaching the national team is a different challenge and it is difficult to gauge how well he will be able to prepare Ukraine for a short but intense tournament where there is no room for error. Rebrov, the former Tottenham and West Ham forward, is a conservative coach who does not rotate much. The 50-year-old plays with a 4-3-3 formation, but without a set philosophy, meaning he and the team can adjust to their opponents.

The icon

Andriy Yarmolenko is the most iconic figure in the current Ukrainian team and, in terms of achievements and importance, he can even be compared with the Ballon d’Or winner Andriy Shevchenko. Yarmolenko’s fourth consecutive European Championship will be a record for a Ukraine player. The 34-year-old has played the most matches for the country and, at the time of writing, is just two international goals behind Sheva: 46 against 48. He is the leader in the dressing room and a respected figure among players and fans alike. Last season, he returned to Ukraine after a long career abroad and is now a mentor for the young Kyiv players.

Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmolenko gestures during the Euro 2024 qualifier against Italy in September 2023.View image in fullscreen

One to watch

At the beginning of the qualifying campaign, Shakhtar’s 21-year-old midfielder Georgiy Sudakov unexpectedly became Rebrov’s main man. By the end, he had played the most minutes of anyone. Sudakov is the biggest star of the Ukrainian league and, with Premier League clubs interested, will be the next player to bring his club big money – at least €60m (£51m), according to reports. Euro 2024 will be his platform and he is highly motivated to do his best and earn a move to a top league.

The maverick

Predicting Mykhailo Mudryk‘s next move is hard: on one of his best days he can deliver a world-class performance but on another he can flop completely. Off the field, Mudryk is just as unpredictable and can get into all sorts of situations. Once he found himself laughing at an old man in a gym and another time he offered a fan £10,000 for a one-on-one training session. More serious was when he was involved in a racism row after lip-syncing to a controversial song on TikTok. He said he was “deeply sorry” and “wholeheartedly accepted” that it was not appropriate.

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The spine

Ukraine’s strongest position is the goalkeepers, where Rebrov can choose between Benfica’s Trubin, who got more minutes in the qualifiers, and Lunin, who has done exceptionally well for Real Madrid this season. The key defender is the 21-year-old Zabarnyi. He is confident, versatile and experienced, heading to his second European Championship finals tournament. Zinchenko, one of the team captains, is crucial in the buildup play. Despite a disappointing club season, he is always reliable for Ukraine. The target man up front is the breakout La Liga star Dovbyk, who arrives having topped La Liga goalscoring charts with 24 in 2023-24. He is not as prolific for the national team as he is with Girona, but big things are expected from him at Euro 2024.

Probable starting XI

Ukraine predicted lineup View image in fullscreen

Celebrity fan

Oleksandr Usyk. The undisputed world champion in cruiserweight and heavyweight, who recently defeated Tyson Fury, is a big football fan. Last year Usyk became an ambassador for the Ukraine national team but his connection to football doesn’t stop there. He may have made a career in boxing but he has played football since his childhood – and still does whenever possible. In fact, he even has a contract with the Ukrainian Premier League club Polissya, where club directors say he will be given his debut in an official match.

Culinary delight

The most common combo in Ukraine during football games is beer with various snacks. Ukrainians love their beer and do not always limit themselves to just one or two. Craft beer stores can be found literally everywhere, offering a variety of brands. For snacks, just pick your favourite: pretzels, crackers, salted peanuts, chips, dried fish, sausages and more. Typically, Ukrainians do not cook for games when watching at home, preferring a quick snack that can be bought at any store.

Ukraine team guide written by Oleksandr Sazhko and Oleksandr Sereda for