Ukraine out to stop Serbia's final surge
Coach Yuriy Kalitvintsev has promised that the hosts will give their all to reach the final as Ukraine head to Mariupol for their UEFA European Under-19 Championship last-four encounter with Group B winners Serbia, according to UEFA News.
Serhiy Rybalka`s late winner against Switzerland sent Ukraine through to the semi-finals as Group A runners-up, but that victory came at a price with the goalscorer`s booking and forward Vitaliy Kaverin`s sending off meaning the pair will play no part against Serbia. However, Kalitvintsev suggested passionate home support at the Illychivets Stadium and able replacements would help his side to cope with the losses. "We are playing at home and we`re sure the supporters will be screaming for us," he said. "Reaching the semi-finals is just one step towards our goal, which is to get to the final. Of course, it`s a big loss for us that Rybalka and Kaverin will be suspended, but the players who come in against Serbia won`t be worse than either of them."
Ukraine have reached this stage just once before, when they missed out on a final place after a penalty shoot-out defeat by Spain in 2004. Kalitvintsev believes his side will have to overcome "aggressively attacking" opponents should they wish to return to Donetsk for Sunday`s showpiece. "We respect them," he said of Serbia. "We`ve seen all three of their games on video and we know they`re going to be strong opponents. What we want to make sure of now is that our team is also respected after this game. We`ll do all we can to prevent our opponents reaching the final."
Aleksandar Stanojević, meanwhile, told uefa.com that his players are aware of the opportunity they have to reach their first final at this level, having lost out to England in the last four as Serbia and Montenegro in 2005. "The guys are a little tired but they are mentally strong and know this is a chance to do something special," he said. "Who knows when we`ll be in a position like this again?"
The 35-year-old admitted that, as hosts, Ukraine were favourites but pointed to his team`s group triumphs over Spain and Turkey and the draw with France to suggest that Thursday`s match could well end in his side`s favour. "We were the only team to get seven points in the group stage," he said. "We have some very impressive attacking players who will probably make the difference in the next game, and if we score a goal or two I`m 100 per cent sure we`ll win."
The two teams have met just once before at U19 level, with Serbia enjoying a 2-0 triumph in a qualifying round mini-tournament match in Riga in the 2005/06 competition. Stanojević has a specific plan in place to ensure a similar outcome this time around. "Ukraine are an impressive team who are always pressing, but I know how we`ll play against them so let`s see what happens," he said.