International Football

Andriy Shevchenko: Legendary Striker Proves He Can Lead Ukraine on Magical Run

KIEV, UKRAINE - JUNE 11:  Andriy Shevchenko of Ukraine celebrates victory at the final whistle during the UEFA EURO 2012 group D match between Ukraine and Sweden at The Olympic Stadium on June 11, 2012 in Kiev, Ukraine.  (Photo by Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images)
Laurence Griffiths/Getty Images
Austin GreenCorrespondent IJune 11, 2012

With two perfectly placed headers, Andriy Shevchenko proved that tournament co-host Ukraine cannot be taken lightly at Euro 2012.

The 35-year-old legend delivered two clinical goals in Ukraine's opening match against Sweden, leading his team to victory and quieting his critics within a seven-minute span.

With his team down 1-0, Shevchenko delivered a vintage performance.

Just three minutes after Zlatan Ibrahimovic scored for Sweden, Shevchenko soared above Olof Mellberg and headed in a gorgeous cross from Andriy Yarmolenko.

Seven minutes later, Oleg Gusev sent a corner into the box, where Shevchenko took advantage of some sloppy marking. He effortlessly stepped in front of Ibrahimovic and squeezed the ball past Mikael Lustig at the near post.

The two goals were an emphatic reminder that Shevchenko is not just a quality striker, but one of the best in the world. Even in his ripe old age, he is capable of dominating a game against elite competition.

KIEV, UKRAINE - JUNE 11:  Andriy Shevchenko of Ukraine scores their second goal during the UEFA EURO 2012 group D match between Ukraine and Sweden at The Olympic Stadium on June 11, 2012 in Kiev, Ukraine.  (Photo by Martin Rose/Getty Images)
Martin Rose/Getty Images

While some may have thought that his inclusion on the national team was for nostalgic purposes only, Shevchenko proved that he is still a world-class talent.

He and his teammates also sent a strong message to the rest of the field at Euro 2012.

Despite being in a group with powerhouses France, England and Sweden, it is Ukraine who sit atop Group D with three points. The co-hosts showed that they are a deep and talented team, capable of upsetting anybody in the tournament.

Although Shevchenko will get the attention, and deservedly so, Ukraine also got wonderful performances from Andriy Voronin and Evgeni Konoplyanka. The two were a nuisance for the Swedish defense, using their creativity and constant pressure to wreak havoc in the attacking third.

The Ukrainians will have their hands full with a quality French side on Friday, but they certainly shouldn't be counted out. 

With their scrappy midfielders and unflappable leader up front, the Ukrainians are an incredibly dangerous team. Don't be surprised if they take at least one point from France and England to move into the knockout rounds, where no one—not even the tournament favorites—will want to see them.

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