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Monday, June 19, 2006
Blokhin confident Ukraine will get off mark

Ukraine manager Oleg Blokhin is confident his World Cup debutants are quick learners, and will prove so against Saudi Arabia.

The former Soviet republic's bow on the world stage last week turned into a painful humiliation as Spain ran out easy 4-0 winners in Leipzig.

Victory against the Saudis in Hamburg later today would put Blokhin's side right back in the qualification picture, especially if Spain beat Tunisia in Stuttgart afterwards.

Blokhin said: 'We know that everything depends on this match. I don't have to tell the players that. They know it already.

'I am sure that the players understand we are not tourists here but World Cup participants. Being beaten 4-0 taught us a lot. We have learnt our lesson.

'We now know that when you are playing in the World Cup every little mistake is punished. We gave away two goals from set-pieces and had more problems when we had a man sent off.

'We know we have got to get a result and to get it we will keep playing football.'

Blokhin was also heartened by watching nations who had performed poorly in their first matches improve dramatically the second time around, with Ghana beating the Czech Republic and nine-man USA holding Italy to a draw.

He said: 'Those two teams are a classic example of how to learn your lessons. They were completely different in their second matches.'

Star striker Andriy Shevchenko is set to wear the captain's armband again despite a lack of match fitness following a knee injury, and midfield playmaker Oleg Gusev also appears to be winning his battle against a similar problem.

Blokhin has defensive worries as Vladislav Vashchuk is suspended following his sending-off against Spain, and Vladimir Yezerskiy is struggling with a thigh injury sustained in a training session.

Ukraine are nevertheless ranked as strong favourites to beat the Saudis, who opened their Group H campaign with a 2-2 draw with Tunisia in Munich.

The Green Hawks are still struggling to shake off the humiliation of a 8-0 thrashing by Germany four years ago but Blokhin was not prepared to write them off.

He said: 'We know Saudi Arabia have played many matches and have proved themselves to be a good team.'

The Spain game had been played in temperatures the Saudis would have been used to back home but Hamburg is likely to be much cooler.

But Blokhin was not counting on that and said: 'One should not look for the weather but to one's own performance on the pitch.'




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