Ukraine, playing in the World Cup football finals for the first time ever, has reached the quarterfinals in Germany. VOA Sports Editor Parke Brewer was in Cologne for the former Soviet Republics shootout win Monday night over Switzerland and has a report.
This was not what followers would describe as an attractive football match. Even some of the play throughout the game drew boos, jeers and whistles from the sellout crowd.
As the match dragged on without a goal being scored, it could almost be predicted that it would be decided in a shootout, and it was. Neither Switzerland nor Ukraine scored in regulation or extra time, leading to penalty kicks.
Ukraine's star striker Andriy Shevchenko was the first to step up to the penalty spot, but his shot was blocked. The Swiss failed to convert on their first three attempts, with two saves by Ukraine's goalkeeper and one shot hitting the crossbar. The Ukrainians converted their second, third and fourth attempts to win the shootout, 3-0.
Swiss coach Koebi Kuhn explained his teams failures.
"The nerves," said Koebi Kuhn. "A bad case of nerves. This morning everybody took aim at different corners of the goal, and our goalkeepers didn't stand a chance. They were good at practice, but the nerves were shot."
Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin said he got so nervous he went to the dressing room and did not watch the penalty kick shootout.
"I think both teams would have deserved to go on to the quarterfinals, but a penalty shootout is like Russian roulette really," said Oleg Blokhin. "I didn't actually see the penalties myself, because for 120 minutes I had to watch the game and it was simply too much for me to take."
The 3-0 shootout win over Switzerland has earned Coach Blokhin and Ukraine a quarterfinal berth against Italy.