Italy face familiar threat in Ukraine quarter-final

Stefano Blin

HAMBURG, June 28, 2006 (AFP) – Italy face the striker who used to terrorise Serie A defenders on a weekly basis when they take on Ukraine here in Friday’s World Cup quarter-final.

Ukraine captain Andriy Shevchenko ended his seven-year stay with AC Milan only last month and admitted he will have mixed feelings about trying to knock his adopted country out of the tournament.

"I spent seven wonderful years in Italy and I owe the country a lot, but now I have to play against them in the most important football match in the history of Ukraine," said the 29-year-old who joined English champions Chelsea last month.

"The Italy squad is packed with talented players, many of whom are my former team-mates, who Ill now have to play against.

"Italy are the favourites, but the important thing for us is to play as a solid unit and with enough heart to make up for what we may lack in technique."

Ukraine were written off after starting their first World Cup campaign with a 4-0 defeat against Spain.

But after that hammering they bounced back to crush Saudi Arabia by the same score and then qualified for the last 16 by edging Tunisia 1-0.

They set up a last eight clash with Italy by winning a penalty shoot-out against Switzerland.

Shevchenko, a former European Footballer of the Year, put the Ukraine’s poor start down to nervousness.

"Unfortunately we were hesitant that afternoon because it was our debut in the World Cup," he said.