World Soccer: What does Euro 2012 mean for you?

Andriy Shevchenko: It is my dream. The last five years I have hardly thought about anything other than the European Championship that will come to my country. The stadiums are simply perfect and I’m sure the atmosphere during the greatest sporting event in Ukraine will correspond to the level of the tournament.

How has the country changed during these five years of preparation?

The Ukrainian people have invested heavily in building the modern airports and stadiums and other infrastructure. Look at the attendances in the Ukraine Premier League matches this spring. For example, in Kiev every game draws 50,000 to 60,000 fans. It is more
than we’ve attracted to the Champions League games before the reconstruction of the Olimpiysky stadium. People can see when they visit the stadiums that they are very good in every aspect.

What is your personal target in relation to Euro 2012?

This is my last major tournament so I don’t want only to be included in the team, I would like to perform at my highest level. I won’t come near the pitch if I’m not ready. I’ll consult our coach, Oleg Blokhin on how I can be the most use to the team. I’ll do my utmost for the needs of our national side.

What about your club career?

I will make my final decision whether to continue at the end of Euro 2012. Truly, I don’t know what will happen. Maybe I will continue to play for Dynamo Kiev, maybe not. Now I’m fully concentrated on helping my club to win the Ukrainian Premier League. After that I’m going to help Ukraine at Euro 2012. That’s all I’m thinking about.

How strong will Ukraine be?

Euro 2012 is a special event for every Ukrainian – including me, of course. I have never participated in the European Championship, but I took part in the 2006 World Cup in Germany. It was unforgettable. I know how the atmosphere influenced the players. We have quite a large group of promising, ambitious and very talented players for whom it will be the first big tournament. They have trained hard to produce quality football this summer. I think we will be well balanced and ready to fight with every rival standing in our way.

You have a tricky group…

Yes, it’s one of the toughest. Both England and France are among the leaders of world football. Generally speaking all our rivals are very powerful in terms of an intensive and physical kind of football, including even France. They play very powerful football that resembles the English style. Sweden too are very strong as nearly all of them are playing either in England or Italy. But I think the similarity of our rivals may ease our first task to qualify from the group.

What is the team’s strategy?

Every match will be of high importance for us. First of all we have to think only about our next game. We can think about some strategies only when we have six points. Anything can happen. Maybe we will draw the first match then win the next two, or win the first and lose the second. In any case, it is vital to start with victory against Sweden.

How far can you go?

First of all we have to be well prepared, both mentally and physically, for every game. My dream is to show our quality football and with a bit of luck progress to the Final. We understand that will be a difficult task, but at the same time you only get the one chance to make history.

Will Ukrainian fans be expecting too much from you? 

I’m already 35 years old so I can’t play three games a week. It’s natural that I need more time for rehabilitation. In theory I can play three games but the fans expect from me the kind of football I performed 10 or 15 years ago. If I feel I’m not completely fit I simply don’t want to play and disappoint my supporters. Both Blokhin and I understand this.

Interview by Oleg Zadernovsky