Isn't it fun to see your prognostications go up in flames? The tournament has been full of head-turning incongruities - Croatian attacking verve, Greek resiliency, Spanish struggles - but the sight of Ukraine and Sweden punching relentlessly did a lot to buck the trend of scoffing pundits who reckoned it might be Euro 2012's most grueling contest to date.
In the end, further shock came from the eventual winners: not the gritty, impressive-in-qualifying Swedes led by Zlatan Ibrahimovic, but a 2-1 victory for the unfavored co-host complete with a talisman of its own.
A brace from 35-year-old Andriy Shevchenko followed a typically impudent Ibra opening goal and sent the not-quite-capacity Kiev crowd into rapture, throwing Group D into the same chaos and concern currently plaguing Group B, the presumptive 'Group of Death'. If these performances continue, we might have to apply that cliched tag to England's quartet when all is said and done.
Both sides were emboldened by the dour England-France draw earlier in the day and attacked relentlessly. It wasn't always pretty - the first-half had a sloppy feel akin to a Sunday League kickabout - but it set the heart racing nonetheless to see Ukraine's young wingers Evhen Konoplyanka and Andrei Yarmolenko bombing down the flanks and finding ways to get it in to the seemingly ageless duo of Shevchenko and Andrei Voronin.
Though the pair have been oft-mocked for washing out in the English Premier League, it's clear that time has healed all wounds to the psyche; both were inventive and clever in the attacking third, drawing the Swedish defence out of alignment and giving its wide players room to exploit.
It appeared to be working, too. In the 23rd minute, a counter-attack cued by Sergei Nazarenko freed Sheva down the right side, though he dragged a narrow-angle shot across goal instead of squaring for two teammates well-placed inside the box. Three minutes later, Voronin darted past Andreas Granqvist in pursuit of an angled cross from Nazarenko but lacked the pace to meet it. In the 35th, Voronin forced a sharp parry from Andreas Isaksson and Konoplyanka missed two chances in the dying minutes of the first half.
Yet Sweden was equally threatening: Ibrahimovic's curled cross/shot forced a far-post punch from Andrei Pyatov to prevent the opening goal inside the first quarter of an hour. Markus Rosenberg's elegant turn-and-shot on 31 minutes again pressed Pyatov into a difficult save.
But all that gusto and intent lacked a killer edge until Zlatan's simple strike four minutes into the second half. Sebastian Larsson's first right-wing cross was played back to him by Ola Toivonen, and his ensuing delivery was cleared right to Kim Kallstrom inside the box. His simple square pass was all Ibrahimovic needed to skip in front of Evhen Khacheridi and slot it past Pyatov to stun the home fans.
You often get a measure of teams by how they respond to conceding the first goal - the Netherlands' record when conceding first at the European Championship is especially poor - but Ukraine continued to attack and earned its equaliser barely four minutes later. A fine 55-yard run by right-back Oleg Gusiev was tracked the whole way by Kallstrom before finding Yarmolenko; his in-swinging cross was met by Shevchenko at the near post. Isaksson had no chance to prevent the emphatic header.
From there, Sweden fell apart. Though Granqvist and Olof Mellberg appeared shaky all game long, it was a set-piece that exposed their flaws: an in-swinging corner found a wide-open Shevchenko at the near post, and his glancing header beat right-back Mikael Lustig to give Ukraine a decisive 2-1 lead. Mistakes galore on the marking; Ibra let Sheva free, and despite seeming glued to the post, the ball squeezed past Lustig and gave Isaksson no chance to leap across. A simple error, and one that in hindsight turned Group D on its head.
Sweden had plenty of chances in the remaining half-hour once Konoplyanka, Shevchenko and Voronin were withdrawn, but the desperation to level the score meant shots were snatched at and openings were squandered. Sub Christian Wilhelmson forced a strong save from Pyatov with 14 minutes left. Zlatan's header across the box sat up nicely for Mellberg but he fouled Artem Milevsky to end the move. Then, sub Johan Elmander - on for the underwhelming Rosenberg - wasted Ibra's sumptuous flick-on from 12 yards with Pyatov vulnerable. In injury time, Mellberg again had the chance for heroics as he ran onto another far-post flick, but mishit his volley though Rasmus Elm was arguably better-placed to shoot.
And so it was for Erik Hamren and his Sweden side, vanquished by the home side in yet another stunning result at Euro 2012. Coach Oleg Blokhin has his Ukraine side humming, keeping expectations low but all too aware of what his counter-punching side is capable of. Group D's future never looked so uncertain.
Man of the Match: Andriy Shevchenko. Though many yellow-blues stood out - Oleg Gusiev, Yarmolenko, Voronin - it was the frontman's instinctive play that made the difference.
Ukraine verdict: The best possible outcome. Blokhin knew his side was going to be underestimated, but what showed was a largely confident, entertaining display. Gusiev's ability to get forward unmarked created room for Yarmolenko to thrive as he did on Shevchenko's first goal, and that connection will be pivotal in its remaining games. Three points gives the co-host a massive advantage moving forward. Knowing that both France and England must attack, further shocks could be made possible given how well the Ukraine counter-attack worked against Zlatan and Co.
Sweden verdict: Erik Hamren must work tirelessly to ensure the good work in qualifying isn't for nought. He has issues on defence - Granqvist and Mellberg failed to impose on Ukraine's front four - and in midfield, where Kallstrom and the highly-touted Elm were largely outplayed. Controlling Ibrahimovic's fragile emotional state - he will be spitting fire following this defeat, one expects - is also a priority.
Talking Point: It is worth noting that Sweden's goal came while Ukrainian left-back Evhen Selin was down injured? I know such sportsmanship is loved and loathed in equal measure, but it was Lustig and Larsson attacking down that flank with Selin absent that pulled the home side's defense out of alignment and created the confusion from which Ibrahimovic would later profit. Arguably more important had Sweden won, the clear story was a turn-back-the-clock showing from the iconic Shevchenko. England and France would do well to remember his predatory Milan days as opposed to his failure at Chelsea.© ESPN