Ukrainian football is certainly on the up. With solid investment, great player scouting and recruitment models as well as developing their own talent teams from across the country are still slugging it out in the Champions League and Europa League. Can they challenge the big boys in the not so distant future?
The two premier competitions in European football are the Champions League and of course the Europa League. Currently there are teams left in the competitions from all over Europe. Russia, Czech Republic, Romania and Portugal are just some of the countries who still have multiple teams remaining in the combined total of 48 teams but once again the usual suspects dominate the amount of teams left in Europe’s main competitions.
Spain lead the way by laws of aggregates (4 CL, 3 EL) despite sharing a grand total of six with Germany (3 CL, 3 EL) and England respectively (2CL, 4 EL) while Italy boast a total of five teams still competing in Europe (2 CL, 4 EL).
The next country on the list however may surprise you; Ukraine.
Currently teams from Ukraine’s Premier League still in European competition total at four with Shakhtar Donetsk still in the Champions League at the expense of our very own dethroned European Champions Chelsea as well as Dnipro Dniproprovetsk, Metalist Kharkiv and Dynamo Kiev all still slugging it out in the Europa League.
Compare that to countries ranked higher in the coefficients such as Portugal (two; 1 CL, 1 EL) and France (two; 2 EL) and Ukrainian football certainly seems to be on the up.
There was a time when the only Ukrainian team you would expect to see in the latter stages of European football would have been Dynamo Kiev. Further back you have their Cup Winner’s Cup triumphs of 1975 and 1986 and subsequent Super Cup victories. But in the 90’s the team consisting of Andriy Shevchenko, Sergei Rebrov and Oleh Luzhnyi made the quarter finals of the Champions League in 1998 and semi-finals in 1999; losing out on that occasion 4-3 on aggregate to Bayern Munich.
Since then Ukrainian football has grown although it is still dominated by two predominant forces. Tavriya Simferopol may have won the first ever Premier League title but it has since been ruled by Dynamo and more recently Shakhtar Donetsk.
Now with the likes of Metalist and Dnipro starting to challenge on both a domestic and continental front you have to feel Ukraine is a growing force in European football.
Many a sceptical critic will argue that it is mainly due to a decent amount of finance from oil-rich localized investors being spent on South American and Eastern European ‘mercenaries’ and taking advantage on the lack of restrictions on foreign players; and in some ways they are correct.
Shakhtar have a very Brazilian feel with the likes of Fernandinho, Luiz Adriano and Taison all in the team and the same can be said about most of the leagues big players.
However talented home-grown players such as Yevhen Konoplyanka, Andriy Yarmolenko, Ruslan Rotan and Yevhen Kacheridi are still plying their trade in Ukraine; and who are we to talk about ‘foreign mercenaries diluting the game’.
The national side is strong and the country recently co-hosted the European Championships; showing off impressive stadia such as the Donbass Arena, Metalist Stadium and Arena Lviv on top of the Kiev Olympic Stadium that was renovated in 2011.
There are not many leagues in Europe that are growing at such a rate as the Ukrainian Premier League and although it may not be in their grasps to win a European trophy again this season it may not be long before a Ukrainian side is on the cusp of Champions League glory once again.
What do you think of the rise of the Ukrainian Premier League?