June 10, 2021

2021 Ukraine national soccer team fan guide for Euro championship

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Ukraine kicks off participation in the delayed Euro 2020 soccer championship with its first group stage match on June 13 against the Netherlands. The team next plays North Macedonia on June 17 before finishing the group stage of the tournament on June 21 against Austria. In order to help readers familiarize themselves with the Ukrainian squad, the following list has been compiled of the 11 most popular players on the 2021 Ukraine National Football team. Fans will find the player’s jersey number, date and place of birth, height/weight, position, current professional club and a brief summary of his career.

No. 12 – ANDRIY PYATOV – Goalkeeper – Born June 28, 1984, in Kirovohrad, Ukraine, 6-foot-3, 185 pounds, Shakhtar Donetsk. Debuted professionally in 2000-2001 with Vorskla-2 Poltava, and in the Ukrainian Premier League at the end of the 2002-2003 season with Vorskla Poltava. Shakhtar Donetsk bought his contract from Vorskla in December 2006. He took over as Shakhtar’s main goalkeeper in the 2007-2008 season, replacing Bohdan Shust. Internationally Pyatov was a member of the Ukrainian national U-21 team and part of Ukraine’s 2006 World Cup squad which reached the quarterfinals. He has made well over 90 appearances for the Ukrainian national team. He has been named Ukrainian Premier League Top Goaltender six times.

No. 2 – EDUARD SOBOL – Left Back – Born April 20, 1995, in Vilniansk, Ukraine, 6-foot-1, 162 pounds,, Club Brugge (on loan from Shakhtar Donetsk). He is a product of the FC Metalurh Zaporizhia’s youth system. He made his pro debut for FC Metalurh in November 2011. In February 2013 Sobol signed a contract with Shakhtar Donetsk. He has been loaned out to Metalurh Donetsk, Metalist Kharkiv, Zorya Luhansk, Slavia Prague, Jablonec and Club Brugge. In May 2018 his Slavia Prague squad won the 2017-2018 Czech Cup.

No. 16 – VITALIY MYKOLENKO – Left Back – Born May 29, 1999, in Cherkasy, Ukraine, 5-foot-11, 158 pounds, Dynamo Kyiv. Vitaliy developed his skills with the Dynamo Kyiv youth sports school. He started out playing for FC Dynamo in the Ukrainian Premier League Reserves and was promoted to Dynamo’s senior squad in August 2017. He has represented Ukraine at all levels of youth football: U-17, U-18, U-19 and U-21. His first match as a member of Ukraine’s national team was at age 19 on November 20, 2018, in a friendly against Turkey as a starter. He was named Golden Talent of Ukraine in 2018 and 2019.

No. 8 – RUSLAN MALINOVSKYI – Midfielder – Born May 4, 1993, in Zhytomyr, Ukraine, 5-foot-11, 175 pounds, Atalanta. He is regarded as a set piece specialist who possesses a powerful and accurate shot with either foot. He began his career at age seven with Polissia Zhytomyr before moving on to Shakhtar Donetsk’s youth program. In 2011 he signed with Shakhtar, who sent him out on loan to five different clubs, including Sevastopol, Zorya Luhansk and Genk. He was recognized as the best young player in Ukraine in 2014 with Zorya Luhansk where he was a key player. In 2016 while on loan to the Belgian side Genk, Ruslan scored 13 goals and had eight assists in 41 games. On July 16, 2019, he signed with Atalanta where he has contributed over a dozen goals in Serie A competitions. He has scored six goals for Ukraine’s national team in 33 appearances (through April).

No. 9 – ROMAN YAREMCHUK – Striker – Born November 27, 1995, in Lviv, Ukraine, 6-foot-3, 175 pounds, Gent. He is a product of two sports schools: Karpaty Lviv and Dynamo Kyiv. He scored twice in his debut match as a 13-year-old playing for Dynamo in Ukrainian National Youth competition. He turned pro at age 17 with Dynamo Kyiv and was loaned out to Dynamo-2 Kyiv and Oleksandriya. In August 2017, Yaremchuk signed a four-year contract with Gent in the Belgian First Division A. He has scored over 40 goals with Gent. In January 2020 he had surgery on an Achilles tendon. He has tallied six goals for Ukraine’s national team.

No. 5 – SERHIY SYDORCHUK – Mid­fielder – Born May 2, 1991, in Zaporizhia, Ukraine, 6-foot-2, 180 pounds, Dynamo Kyiv. He learned the sport’s basics with the youth system of his hometown club, FC Metalurh Zaporizhia. He made his pro debut at age 18, playing for FC Metalurh in the Ukrainian Premier League in August 2009. December 2012 saw Sydorchuk sign a 5-year contract with Dynamo Kyiv and he scored his first goal for the club in a league match versus FC Chornomorets Odesa in August 2013. He made his international debut for Ukraine on October 9, 2014, replacing captain Ruslan Rotan, and scored the second goal in a 2-0 win over Belarus. Three days later, in a second European qualifier, he scored the only goal to defeat Macedonia.

No. 17 – OLEKSANDR ZINCHENKO – Midfielder/Left Back – Born December 15, 1996, in Radomyshl, Ukraine, 5-foot-9, 145 pounds, Manchester City. He is one of a select few Ukrainian pro soccer players to earn a contract and play for an English Premier League club. In July 2016, Zinchenko signed with Manchester City in a transaction which surprised some in the European football world. Rumors were that the Bundesliga’s Borussia Dortmund were also considering his talents as a potential transfer. The 20-year-old paid his dues on loan to both PSV Eindhoven and Jong PSV, before gaining playing time with Manchester City in the 2017-2018 season. In June 2019 he agreed to a new five-year contract, keeping him in the fold through 2024. Zinchenko trained with the youth program at FC Shakhtar Donetsk and debuted professionally with the Russian Premier League’s Ufa in early 2015 at age 18. He is a versatile midfielder who can play several positions on the left side, including wing back or fullback. In March 2021, in a match against France, he became Ukraine’s youngest captain in history at the age of 24 years and 98 days.

No. 20 – VIKTOR KOVALENKO – Midfielder – Born February 14, 1996, in Kherson, Ukraine, 6-foot, 145 pounds, Atalanta. Right before his 25th birthday in February the football world was mildly shocked when Kovalenko inked a four-and-a-half-year deal with Italian Serie A club Atalanta. He turned pro at 18, making his debut in the Ukrainian Premier League for Shakhtar Donetsk in February 2015. His youth soccer career spanned from 2008-2015 with Shakhtar. Kovalenko scored 31 goals in 71 matches representing Ukraine in U-16, U-17, U-19, U-20 and U-21 competitions.

No. 6 – TARAS STEPANENKO – Midfielder – Born August 8, 1989, in Velyka Novosilka, Ukraine, 5-foot-11, 160 pounds, Shakhtar Donetsk. Taras began his pro career with Metalurh Zaporizhia at the age of 17. He scored his first goal on July 21, 2007, in a 1-0 Premier League win over Kryvbas (one month shy of his 18th birthday). On May 11, 2010, the midfielder signed a five-year deal with Shakhtar Donetsk, where he has played the past 10-plus seasons. He had a heated rivalry with Dynamo’s Andriy Yarmolenko in 2015-2016, which included a leg injury and a brawl with Stepanenko being kicked and beaten to the ground. He has spoken out against the tattoo culture among football players, citing his Christian beliefs as the reason.

No. 7 – ANDRIY YARMOLENKO – Forward/Winger – Born October 23, 1989, in Leningrad, Russia, 6-foot-2, 185 pounds, West Ham United. His native Ukrainian parents were originally from the village of Smolianka, Chernihiv Oblast. After their marriage, they relocated to Leningrad (today St. Petersburg), where Andriy was born. Three years later, after the USSR collapsed, the family moved back to Ukraine, settling in Chernihiv. Yarmolenko first started kicking a ball at the age of 4-5. His pro career began at Desna Chernihiv at age 17. In 2007 he signed a five-year contract with Dynamo Kyiv, starting out with its second team, Dynamo-2. His qualities of good physique, strong shot and elite foot speed earned him praise from journalists as the “new Sheva” (A reference to the great Andriy Shevchenko). August 28, 2017, saw Yarmolenko sign with Borusia Dortmund where he scored 3 goals in 18 matches. The following year had him join Premier League club West Ham United on a four-year deal. In over 90 appearances for Ukraine’s national team, he has scored some 40 goals.

No. 10 – YEVHEN KONOPLYANKA – Winger – Born September 29, 1989, in Kirovohrad, Ukraine, 5-foot-10, 175 pounds, Shakhtar Donetsk. His senior career has seen him start with Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk in the Ukrainian Premier League (2007-2015), a free transfer to Spanish club Sevilla (2015-2017), loaned out to the Bundesliga’s Schalke 04 (2016-2019) and a return to his native land in 2019, when he signed a three-year deal with Shakhtar Donetsk. A full international since 2010, Konoplyanka has earned over 80 caps for Ukraine, scoring over 20 international goals. He is a three-time Ukrainian Footballer of the Year. At age seven, he signed up for a karate class, practicing the sport simultaneously with football, eventually earning a black belt. In January 2014 Konoplyanka nearly moved to English team Liverpool, only to have Dnipro president Ihor Kolomoisky refuse to sanction the transfer.

Ihor Stelmach may be reached at iman@sfgsports.com.