Laudrup: This part of the season is great

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Looking at the cold hard facts, Ukraine have enjoyed few major footballing highlights since gaining independence 27 years ago. Despite going all the way to the quarter-finals in their first and so far only FIFA World Cup™ appearance in 2006, the Yellow and Blues have frequently fallen short of expectations since, failing to progress past the group stage at UEFA EURO 2012 and 2016. The Eastern European side have certainly not been short of talent, with Anatoliy Tymoschuk, Andriy Voronin, Andriy Shevchenko and Serhiy Rebrov all plying their trade at Europe’s top clubs during this period.

Any fears that Ukraine would go backwards after these stars hung up their boots proved to be unfounded. The appointment of Shevchenko as national coach in 2016 heralded a fresh start and a period of transition. The former goal-getter steadily and meticulously built up a new young team – and the results are starting to show. Although Ukraine missed out on a place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, they were the highest climbers in the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, leaping six places to 29th thanks to two victories over the Czech Republic (47th, down 3) and Slovakia (26th, no change) in the UEFA Nations League in September. Last Wednesday they recorded a respectable 1-1 draw against four-time world champions Italy.

FIFA.com spoke exclusively to Shevchenko about his role as Ukraine coach, his ambitions for the national side and his choices at The Best FIFA Football Awards 2018.

Looking at the cold hard facts, Ukraine have enjoyed few major footballing highlights since gaining independence 27 years ago. Despite going all the way to the quarter-finals in their first and so far only FIFA World Cup™ appearance in 2006, the Yellow and Blues have frequently fallen short of expectations since, failing to progress past the group stage at UEFA EURO 2012 and 2016. The Eastern European side have certainly not been short of talent, with Anatoliy Tymoschuk, Andriy Voronin, Andriy Shevchenko and Serhiy Rebrov all plying their trade at Europe’s top clubs during this period.

Any fears that Ukraine would go backwards after these stars hung up their boots proved to be unfounded. The appointment of Shevchenko as national coach in 2016 heralded a fresh start and a period of transition. The former goal-getter steadily and meticulously built up a new young team – and the results are starting to show. Although Ukraine missed out on a place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup Russia™, they were the highest climbers in the latest FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking, leaping six places to 29th thanks to two victories over the Czech Republic (47th, down 3) and Slovakia (26th, no change) in the UEFA Nations League in September. Last Wednesday they recorded a respectable 1-1 draw against four-time world champions Italy.

FIFA.com spoke exclusively to Shevchenko about his role as Ukraine coach, his ambitions for the national side and his choices at The Best FIFA Football Awards 2018.