Oleg Blokhin said Ukraine had nothing to be ashamed of after the Euro 2012 co-hosts bowed out of the tournament on Tuesday following a 1-0 defeat by England which left them third in Group D.
Blokhin probably spoke for millions of dejected Ukrainians when he cursed his side’s luck in having what he saw as a goal ruled out in the second half with replays suggesting Marco Devic’s effort may have been over the line before it was cleared.
The Ukraine coach praised his side’s display in their final group game in which they laid siege to England’s goal for long periods, but were unable to capitalise on good spells of possession and conceded a sloppy goal when Wayne Rooney headed in.
Ukraine needed to beat England to go through, but it was Roy Hodgson’s side (seven points) who progressed to the quarter-finals as group winners along with France (four). Ukraine finished third with three points ahead of Sweden, who they beat, also on three.
“We have a promising team and I would like to thank my players and all supporters for this game. We weren’t lucky enough, but I do not feel ashamed with our performance tonight,” Blokhin told reporters.
The coach was still seething at having what he viewed as a clear goal ruled out, taking his anger out on one reporter by challenging him to “go outside and have a man conversation”.
“Have you ever played?, he snapped. “You write what you like. You don’t like my team or me. I understand you are a journalist. You should respect me.”
Refocusing, Blokhin said he could not understand how his side were controversially denied an equaliser on 62 minutes when Devic’s shot was half-saved by keeper Joe Hart, then hacked off or from beyond the line by defender John Terry.
The additional assistant referee, introduced to try to deal with close goalline decisions, did not indicate a goal to the referee, to the fury of Blokhin.
“What should I say? There were five referees on the pitch and the ball was 75 centimetres behind the goalline,” said Blokhin, whose side head out along with co-hosts Poland at the group stage.
“Why do we need five referees if (England striker Andy) Carroll plays with his elbows or Terry fouls from behind?
“I do not want to talk about referees. But I would not like to put everything on referees. You have seen it, so you may write all you want.”
Striker Andriy Shevchenko, who announced after the game that he would retire from international football after a farewell friendly, echoed Blokhin’s sentiment when he said defeat by England “was unfair”.
“I think Ukraine was just as good as the opposition. It was our best game at this stage. We were playing for the public and I hope we have not disappointed them,” Shevchenko, Ukraine’s leading player for over a decade, said after winning his 111th international cap as a second-half substitute.
“Yes, we are out of the Euros now but this is football, this is sports. I would like to say that we tried to show good football at this tournament… and I think we have succeeded.” DM
Photo: England’s Wayne Rooney (R) celebrates with his team mates Steven Gerrard (L) and Ashley Young after scoring a goal against Ukraine during their Group D Euro 2012 soccer match at Donbass Arena in Donetsk June 19, 2012. REUTERS/Michael Buholzer
"I know of a cure for everything: salt water...in one way or the other. Sweat or tears or the salt sea." ~ Karen Blixen