Gabriele Marcotti
Tuesday June 12th, 2012

Here are three thoughts from Ukraine's 2-1 victory over Sweden:

1. Four generations of Ukrainian excellence: It's a thread that begins with Valeriy Lobanovskyi, the legendary Dynamo Kyiv manager and continues through Oleg Blokhin, the 59-year-old coach and former goalscoring sensation, Andriy Shevchenko, the veteran centerforward who notched the two goals that sunk the Swedes and Andriy Yarmolenko, the 22-year-old rising star who set up Shevchenko's opener. Blokhin, Shevchenko and Yarmolenko celebrated together at pitch-side after the win, but, make no mistake about it, Lobanovskyi, despite passing away a decade ago at the age of 63, was there too, at least in spirit.

The legendary coach, nicknamed the "colonel," was an innovator who combined discipline, science and tactical flexibility like few others.

We owe much of what we have today in terms of conditioning, data analysis and training methods to him. And Ukraine owes him a particular debt, which is why Blokhin made it a point to remember him post-match.

2. Shevchenko's fairytale: Eight years ago he won the Ballon d'Or. Six years ago he made a shock move from AC Milan to Chelsea for a whopping $50 million. Four years ago, after two hugely disappointing campaigns at Stamford Bridge, he was loaned back to Milan. Three years ago, Milan sent him back after a bust of a season in which he failed to score a single league goal. He ended up back at Dynamo Kyiv, the club where he started his career, and most saw a slow slide to retirement, largely because, a few months shy of his 36th birthday, he's now suffering from major back pain as well. And yet, against the Swedes, Shevchenko regained his superhero status, popping up with two huge goals -- and not just any two goals, but two gorgeous, athletic headers. There's no limit to what adrenaline, mixed with desire and class, can do. Especially when you're playing for your nation.

3. Zlatan Ibrahimovic's tournament? The English media love to deride him. And they'll no doubt continue doing so if he fails to perform against England on Friday. But the big Swede showed that he's ready and sharp. He looks fit. He looks focused. He hit the post and scored a goal. Erik Hamren's decision to play another striker alongside him leaves him less isolated and frees him up to inflict maximum damage (though, perhaps, it would be better if it was Johan Elmander, rather than Markus Rosenberg, joining him up front). The problem is that the two-striker formation does leave Sweden weaker in midfield and they could well pay a price for it. But it's a gamble worth taking. This is Ibrahimovic's time to shine.

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