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by Mark Rachkevych.
Ukraine’s Taras Stepanenko heads the ball as Slovakia midfielder Robert Mak enters late with a kick in Kyiv’s Olympic Stadium on Sept. 8 during their European soccer championship qualifying match that Slovakia won 1-0. © ffu.org.ua
KYIV, Ukraine – Slovakia successfully defended an early first-half goal to take its opening Group C European soccer championship qualifier against Ukraine 1-0 thanks to midfielder Robert Mak’s accurate pointer in the 17th minute. Fellow midfielder Marek Hamsik accurately found him at the 60-meter mark that the PAOK footballer touched ahead splitting two Ukrainian defenders who were belatedly closing the gap as he hit home.
It was enough to give Slovakia an away win in the six-team group, which will see each squad play two-legged games against each other for the rights to play in the continent’s most prestigious soccer tournament taking place in France next in 2016.
Missing for most of the game was Ukraine’s characteristically composed, combinational play that spectators witnessed in the latest World Cup qualifying cycle under coach Mykahilo Fomenko’s guidance. The blue-and-yellows narrowly missed qualifying for Brazil in a round-robin match that France won.
Ukraine started with an aggressively quick tempo that often fizzled the deeper play entered Slovakia’s disciplined defense. Jan Kozak’s side flooded the midfield with five players buttressed by four in the back who clinically made quick transitions to offense, leaving the blue-and-yellows to often back pedal.
After the opening goal, Slovakia continued threatening with defender Peter Pekarik having the best chance. He almost doubled the score in the 33rd with a strike 20 meters out that goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov had to dive to save near the far post.
Yet Ukraine still had plenty of chances, especially as the half waned. Defender Yaroslav Rakitskiy failed on each of his side’s three free kicks to penetrate beyond Slovakia’s defending wall. Towards the end of the half in the 44th, Taras Stepanenko met Edmar’s arching pass with a header only for the leaping goalkeeper Matus Kozacik to deny the finish. A minute later forward Roman Zozulya was in a similar position, but misfired his header while diving.
Ukraine midfielder Oleh Husiev (left) reacts after an attempt on goal as Slovak goalkeeper Jan Kozak cups the ball during their Euro 2016 qualifier in Kyiv’s Olympic Stadium on Sept. 8 that ended 1-0 in Slovakia’s favor. (ffu.org.ua)
Following the half, Ukraine reasserted itself with quicker play, despite the absence of injured forward Yevhen Konopolyanka. Also injured was Anatoliy Tymoshchuk of Zenit Saint Petersburg.
Edmar had the best chances for Ukraine in the 2nd. He threatened in the 66th with a volley that misfired following a free kick. His header earlier in the 51st hit the far post. The Brazilian-born midfielder was also the near-playmaker in other chances in the box.
Yet Slovakia pulled off a tough win away in Kyiv. Ukraine’s next Euro 2016 qualifier is an away match against Belarus on Oct. 9.
(Kyiv Post editor Mark Rachkevych can be reached at email@example.com).
FIBA Europe, the continental governing body, says on June 13 on Twitter it has “decided to relocate EuroBasket 2015 from Ukraine to a new destination(s),” without giving further details.
Europe’s basketball federation says Ukraine has been stripped of the right to host next year’s European men’s championship. The tournament had been in doubt because of the political instability in Ukraine.
Ukraine was stripped of the right to host next year’s European men’s basketball championship on Friday because of the continuing instability in the country.
Three of the planned host cities for the 24-team tournament were located in volatile eastern Ukraine, where government troops are fighting pro-Russian separatists.
Following Russia’s annexation of Crimea in March, tournament director Markiyan Lubkivsky said that hosting the event was no longer possible, but Ukrainian and European basketball authorities had tried to keep the project alive.
FIBA Europe, the continental governing body, said Friday that its board had now decided the risks were too great.
“The decision was taken after a careful consideration of the continuous political situation and security issues in Ukraine, which deemed as less than favorable for the staging of such an important and demanding event,” the organization said in a statement.
However, FIBA Europe said it will “start negotiations immediately” with Ukraine on hosting the 2017 championship.
A decision on next year’s host will be made by September 30, with “single or multi-country bids” to be submitted by the end of July.
Even before Ukraine lost the hosting rights, France had positioned itself as a leading candidate to stage next year’s championship, submitting a formal bid to FIBA Europe last month.
The decision to move the tournament out of Ukraine was announced three days after Ukrainian Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk hosted FIBA Europe president Turgay Demirel to discuss hosting plans.
Among the planned Ukrainian host cities for the September 2015 tournament were Donetsk, Dnipropetrovsk and Kharkiv in eastern Ukraine, where militant groups are pushing for closer links with Russia.
Next year’s championship will include two dozen teams from across Europe. France is the reigning champion after beating Lithuania 80-66 in last year’s final in Slovenia.
FIBA Europe also said the 2015 tournament will use an extended knockout system rather than a second group stage, a change that had been due to come into force in 2017.
Originally posted on TOUCHLINE UI:
Group C is a Group of Equals! No one is more equal than the other. The Group has four teams who all have legitimate and realistic hopes of qualifying to the Next Round.
The Group has been viewed by pundits as one of the easiest groups in the Round, but I disagree with that assertion, not just because the teams can all qualify but because we have sides of different qualities pit together.
Japan relies on flair and pace, Ivory Coast relies on its physical and intimidating presence, Colombia a very direct and attacking side, relies on the creativity of James Rodriguez and his Monaco team-mate, Falcao for goals, and Greece, though the least entertaining team in the group, are very organized, soak the pressure and hit on the break. Remember Euro 2004?
What a Group!
We’ll Preview the Elephants of Ivory Coast and the Samurai Blue of Japan!
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Originally posted on TOUCHLINE UI:
The Group A Preview Continues today! We’ll be looking at two sides with varying characteristics; one is a possession based side who plays down the middle while the other side ,an attacking one with lots of their play coming from the flanks.
They are Croatia and Mexico and they complete our Group A Preview.
- CAPTAIN: Darijo Srna
- FIFA RANKING:20th
- MOST CAPS: Darijo Srna (111)
- MOST CAPS (CURRENT SQUAD): Darijo Srna (111)
- MOST GOALS: DAVOR Suker (45)
MOST GOALS (CURRENT SQUAD): Eduardo(29)
- FIFA WORLD CUP APPEARANCES: 4 Times. Their first appearance was in 1998.
- BEST SHOWING AT THE WORLD CUP FINALS: France 1998, A Davor Suker inspired team finished third edging Netherlands in the third place match after losing 2-0 to France in the semi-final.
COACH: Niko Kovac- He won 83 caps for the Croatian National Team and captained the side at the 2006…
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