From political failure to Euros success: Shevchenko's remarkable route back to the top with Ukraine

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On June 11, 2012, Ukraine claimed their first ever victory at the European Championship: a 2-1 win over Sweden.

Their most recent tournament success arrived on Tuesday night, with 'The Blue and Yellow' beating the same opponents by the same scoreline.

These two momentous occasions in Ukrainian sporting history have one more thing in common: Andriy Shevchenko. 

It was Shevchenko the player who scored both of his nation's goals in their win over the Swedes in Kyiv.

And it was Shevchenko the coach who masterminded Ukraine's shock last-16 triumph in Edinburgh earlier this week.

This, though, is not an example of a smooth transition into management for a former superstar.

An awful lot happened between two of the most significant victories in Shevchenko's life.

Goal fills in the gaps below...

What did Shevchenko do after Euro 2012?

He retired. At the end of July 2012, Shevchenko announced that he was going into politics. Sheva joined the Ukraine, go forward! party. 

But even his incredible popularity did not help their cause – the party gained just 1.58 per cent of the national vote in the general election held in October 2012, thus failing to secure any seats in parliament.

This signalled the end of Shevchenko's short political career.

When did Shevchenko return to football?

In November 2015, Ukraine qualified for the following summer's European Championship in France by beating Slovenia 3-1 on aggregate in a two-legged play-off.

However, the Ukrainian Football Association (UAF) found themselves in an awkward position, as the coaching staff's contracts were scheduled to expire at the end of 2015.

Amid great uncertainty, there were reports that Mykhailo Fomenko's deal would not be renewed and that Shevchenko would replace him as head coach.

Andriy Shevchenko Ukraine Euro 2012

These rumours were not well received by influential Ukrainian football commentator Viktor Vatsko, who told Matchday: “With all due respect for Shevchenko as a footballer, this would be a strategically risky step for the current UAF bosses. 

"We all understand that this is a super prestigious and important position, so to entrust it to a person who has not even worked for a day as a coach would be absurd."

In the end, the UAF agreed an extension with Fomenko but Shevchenko was added to the backroom team in February 2016, replacing former Juventus player Oleksandr Zavarov as assistant coach.

How did Euro 2016 go for Ukraine?

Badly. Ukraine bowed out after losing all three of their group-stage games, against Germany, Northern Ireland and Poland, without scoring a single goal.

After this inglorious exit, the entire coaching staff was dismissed – except for Andriy Shevchenko. The AC Milan legend was entrusted with building a new national team. 

Some critics believe that this was due to Shevchenko's friendship with the head of UAF, Andriy Pavelko. 

Shevchenko is the godfather to Pavelko's daughter Anastasia and some fans are unhappy with the pair's close ties, given Pavelko is not a particularly popular figure in Ukrainian football.

What challenges did Shevchenko face?

The first problem the new boss had to resolve was the enormous divide in the dressing room.

The national team consisted mainly of players from Dynamo Kyiv Shakhtar Donetsk, several of whom had been involved in a mass brawl during a club clash just before Euro 2016.

To Shevchenko's credit, he was able to unite the squad in what was the first demonstration of his impressive man-management skills.

The most memorable moment in this regard came before a Nations League clash with Spain in October of last year when an unidentified player found something funny about Shevchenko's instructions during a team talk on the eve of the game.

In a video that went viral, the coach responded by saying, "Don’t laugh! It's not so funny. It's not funny to me. And it will not be funny for anybody tomorrow. Okay?" The following night, Ukraine claimed a famous 1-0 victory over Spain.

Shevchenko has also cleverly surrounded himself with quality coaches.

He's brought in the likes of Milan legend Mauro Tassotti (assistant coach), Maurizio Sarri's former No.2 Luigi Nocentini and, perhaps most significantly of all, Andrea Azzalin, who was Leicester City's fitness coach during their stunning Premier League title triumph in 2016.

How have things gone on the field?

Quite well, though there have been tough times. Indeed, a 1-0 loss to Malta in an unofficial friendly in Austria in June 2017 represented arguably the most embarrassing result in Ukraine's footballing history.

However, after narrowly missing out on qualifying for the 2018 World Cup – a 2-0 loss at home to Croatia proved decisive – Ukraine showed that they were a team on the up by finishing top of their group in the 2018-19 Nations League.

Still, there was still widespread shock when Ukraine qualified for Euro 2020 by winning a group that also contained Portugal, after taking four points off Cristiano Ronaldo & Co.

At the finals, Ukraine have played only in patches, coming from 2-0 down in their tournament-opener against Netherlands only to end up losing 3-2 in Amsterdam.

Andriy Shevchenko Ukraine Euro 2020

They disappointed in the second half of their 2-1 win over North Macedonia and were roundly criticised for their dismal display in a 1-0 loss to Austria that looked to have ended their hopes of reaching the last 16.

However, Ukraine were helped by results elsewhere and eventually progressed as one of the best third-placed teams with just three points and a -1 goal difference.

Shevchenko, then, deserves all the praise he has been receiving for changing Ukraine's style of play in order to secure a way past Sweden in the round of 16.

What next for Shevchenko?

About a year ago, there were rumours that Shevchenko could return to Milan as coach, and be replaced at the helm of the national team by Serhii Rebrov, who led Hungarian outfit Ferencvaros into the Champions League for the first time in 25 years.

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However, Stefano Pioli's position at San Siro is now secure, while Rebrov has since taken over at Al Ain in the United Arab Emirates.

For now, though, Shevchenko is solely focused on Saturday's quarter-final showdown with England. 

The Three Lions are heavy favourites to prevail in Rome, but if Ukraine can somehow spring another surprise, their inspirational coach won't be short on offers after the Euros.