Call it bad luck, a conspiracy, or a lack of class. Call it what you will, but Ukraine are out of Euro 2012. Wayne Rooney, the man who was originally suspended for this match but had his suspension reduced on appeal, scored the goal that took England through and eliminated the Ukrainians. If that doesn't leave a bitter taste, then Marko Devic's ghost goal surely will. Devic appeared to score the equalizer in the 62nd minute, but neither the referee nor his assistant awarded the goal.
The ghost goal has been the main talking point from the match and will surely reinvigorate the goal-line technology debate. But to be fair, over the course of the match England were the better side and Ukraine did little to show that they merit a spot in the last 8. In fact, they did not play particularly well in any of their three matches; the famous 2-1 victory over Sweden was a direct result of Shevchenko's individual brilliance, not an impressive team performance.
That's not to say that Ukraine failed at their first ever European championship. Realistically, their chances of progressing out of the group were slim from the beginning. Ukraine are simply not in the same class as the likes of England and France, and they have only once ever qualified for a major international tournament. Three points, third place in the group, and an incredible victory over Sweden are a fine result.
Perhaps most importantly, this tournament created memories that will forever remain in the hearts of Ukraine supporters. Shevchenko's brace in the opening match will go down in history as one of the legendary moments in the history of Ukrainian football. And although it is hardly a pleasant one, the injustice of the ghost goal also represents an important event. The creation of a national football narrative requires both the sublime and the tragic. Brazil have the Maracana disaster of 1950. England have the Wembley defeat to Hungary in 1953. Italy have Roberto Baggio's penalty miss in 1994. Ukraine now have the Donetsk ghost goal of 2012.
Though the ghost goal is obviously not on the same scale of tragedy (if such a concept can even be measured), one must remember that Ukraine, as an independent entity, is still both a young country and a young national team. In the wake of the collapse of the Soviet Union, Ukrainian football suffered a complete organizational breakdown. But in the twenty years since, Ukraine has reached the quarterfinals of the World Cup, the best performance of any ex-Soviet state, and became the first Eastern European nation to host a major international tournament. Though the Euro 2012 adventure may be over for the Ukrainian national team, there is plenty to look forward to. Ukraine's football narrative is just beginning.
Though Ukraine are out of the tournament, I will continue posting on this blog about the immediate future of the national team, as well as the continuation of the series on the history of Ukrainian football, all the way through the final on the first of July.