Andriy Shevchenko hailed his heroic Ukraine players following their dramatic 2-1 extra-time win over Sweden as he prepares to turn his focus to a Euro 2020 quarter-final showdown against England.
Ukraine progressed to the European Championship last eight for the first time thanks to Artem Dovbyk’s last-gasp winner in extra time after Oleksandr Zinchenko had seen his opener cancelled out by Emil Forsberg on Tuesday.
Shevchenko’s Ukraine will face England, who beat Germany 2-0 at Wembley earlier in the day, in Rome on Saturday after Dovbyk headed home at the end of 120 minutes.
Ukraine’s only previous appearance in the knockout stages of a major competition came at the 2006 World Cup when eliminating Switzerland before losing to Italy in the last eight.
“I thank my team for all their efforts, for the heroism they have shown,” head coach Shevchenko told a post-match media conference.
“Both teams played very well. It was an interesting match. Neither side wanted to lose so we got this drama at the end.
“With this performance and commitment, our team has deserved the love of the whole country.”
Shevchenko’s side are still to keep a clean sheet at a European Championship, conceding at least once in each of their 10 games, but he felt his side’s tactics were spot on against Sweden.
He added: “We knew how our team should play from the first minutes. We knew who could strengthen us [during the game]. The plan we had developed has worked well.
“We decided to protect the wide areas more. We asked our midfielders to work harder and changed Andriy Yarmolenko’s position. We tried to control the game but it wasn’t that way from time to time. But the team has fully fulfilled our plan.”
Ukraine defender Zinchenko felt the victory answered some of the negativity which had come their way after an underwhelming group stage, which saw them only beat North Macedonia.
“It was hard for me to concentrate on this game because we had so much criticism for our three group games,” he said.
“I felt I could give the team more. I’m very proud that we showed our country and the whole of Europe that we can achieve our goals.
“It’s a historical achievement. My advice to everyone – let’s celebrate, we only live once and we may never repeat these moments again.”
Sweden counterpart Janne Andersson felt his team deserved credit despite exiting the tournament.
Marcus Danielson was sent off in extra time and Ukraine made the extra man count when Zinchenko’s cross was headed in from close range by substitute Dovbyk at Hampden Park.
“We’ll have to fly home and go our separate ways. Suddenly it all ends, this great thing we’ve been building together,” he said.
“We’ve come close to achieving something really good. We leave this with flying colours, as Sweden hadn’t passed a group stage since 2004.”