Iconic striker Andriy Shevchenko is ready to bow out of the international scene and set the stage for a sensational swansong in Ukraine's victory over Sweden on Monday night. Rachel Griffiths looks back on a memorable night for the veteran frontman
Last Updated: June 11, 2012 11:43pm
Andriy Shevchenko: Stole the headlines as Ukraine saw off Sweden
Ukraine's iconic striker, Andriy Shevchenko, admitted ahead of Euro 2012 that his country winning the right to co-host the tournament back in April 2007 had prolonged his playing days.
On Monday night, the 35-year-old talisman justified his decision to extend his career after a fairytale evening against Sweden saw him roll back the years to net two high-quality goals and propel Ukraine to a winning start on home soil.
It is believed Shevchenko will retire after this tournament and the man widely thought of as Ukraine's greatest player seems determined to go out with a bang, sending the sea of yellow that was the home faithful wild when he scored his 47th and 48th goals for his country.
Both of his strikes came in the second half after a less remarkable opening 45 minutes, during which he missed a glaring opportunity to open the scoring after being teed up by a neat pass from youngster Andriy Yarmolenko, who has previously been touted as 'the new Shevchenko'.
But Yarmolenko may have to wait to step into the veteran striker's boots. Those who had written him off as past it in a goalless first half against the Swedes, with memories of a disappointing spell at Chelsea no doubt still fresh, were given a rude awakening in the 55th minute when he cancelled out Zlatan Ibrahimovic's opener.
The Dynamo Kiev striker produced a fine diving header to meet a Yarmolenko cross, planting the ball home to send the Ukraine fans into raptures. Their joy was doubled less than seven minutes later when he guided a corner into the back of the net at the near post.
When Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin chose to substitute him shortly before full-time, the forward left the pitch to a standing ovation from the packed stands, marking a deserved ending to a remarkable night.
If England falter on their route out of Group D, Shevchenko's performance suggests he could be the one to trip them up. While the Swedes offered little to spark fear in the Three Lions ahead of Friday's meeting, the former AC Milan man gave more than a hint of the danger Ukraine could pose.
He has been a lynchpin of the Ukraine side for more than a decade and will be keen to follow up an illustrious club career by bringing the curtain down on his playing days with a Euro campaign to remember.
With his opening display, Shevchenko has set the stage for a dazzling swansong, and England will have to be ready to rain on his parade.