UKRAINE will be the underdogs when they face England on Saturday – but the country with knockout actresses and world-beating boxers should not be underestimated.
Gareth Southgate will need to choose his suit carefully to win the touchline fashion battle with dapper rival Andriy Shevchenko.
And if their fans bring along the nation’s 10ft-long horns (called trembitas) any lucky England supporters who make it to the game will have to be in good voice for the quarter-final tie in Rome.
Here are 20 things you need to know about our Euro 2020 opponents:
- Ukraine is the second largest country in Europe — but its population of 41million is smaller than England’s (56million).
- Gareth Southgate’s side will have to watch out for dangerman Olek Zinchenko, 24, who has won the Premier League three times with Man City.
His family fled Ukraine when Russian-backed forces tried to take control of the Donbas region in 2014.
He is married to glamorous sports journalist Vlada Shcheglova.
- Ukraine’s manager Andriy Shevchenko beats Southgate in the fashion stakes, wearing Giorgio Armani suits made by his Italian fashion designer pal.
Former Chelsea and AC Milan striker Shevchenko met his model wife Kristen Pazik at an afterparty organised by Giorgio.
- Actress Mila Kunis left Ukraine at the age of seven when her teacher mum and engineer dad decided the country had “no future”.
Kunis, whose grandparents were Holocaust survivors, also cited anti-semitism in the USSR as a reason for the move to the USA.
- The biggest sporting stars in Ukraine are former heavyweight boxing champions Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko, who are brothers.
Vitali, who was never knocked out in a professional bout, is now the mayor of the capital, Kiev.
- Ukraine’s president Volodymyr Zelensky once starred in a TV show as a teacher who unexpectedly becomes the country’s president.
The comedy actor turned politician was caught up in a scandal with former US President Donald Trump, who tried to pressure him to investigate Joe Biden’s son Hunter.
- The nation is responsible for the greatest pole vaulter of all time — Sergey Bubka, from Luhansk, who broke the men’s world record 35 times and was the first person to clear six metres.
- Bond girl Olga Kurylenko grew up in poverty in the port city of Berdyansk, having to share a flat with four relatives and her single mum. After moving to Moscow at the age of 15 she became a model.
- There will be split rivalries in the Resident Evil household, with star Milla Jovovich hailing from Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, and her director husband Paul WS Anderson from Northumberland. Jovovich’s family left the Soviet Union when she was five. The country has the most unusual tourist hotspot — the destroyed nuclear plant in Chernobyl. Each year 10,000 people visit the ghost town of Pripyat which was abandoned in 1986 after the meltdown.
- Josef Stalin’s policy of selling Ukrainian farm produce rather than allowing locals to eat it was blamed for the 1932-33 famine which claimed 3.9million lives. Some believe the Communist leader was punishing farmers who opposed giving up their land to the state.
- Ukraine once had the third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world before agreeing to give them all up in 1994. Russia assured their neighbours they would respect their borders in exchange, but broke that deal when they annexed the region of Crimea ten years later.
- Ukraine has been described as the second poorest country in Europe and 60per cent of the population live below the poverty line. The average yearly wage is £7,000 compared to £31,000 in Britain.
- In 1922 Ukraine became one of the founding republics of the USSR, and the Communist state’s second longest-serving leader Leonid Brezhnev was born in Ukraine.
- During World War Two the country lost 1.6million military personnel and 5.2million civilians.
- There are seven UNESCO world heritage sites in Ukraine including the green and gold-domed Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev. It is part of the Monastery of the Caves, where around 100 monks still live.
- Women get ahead with flower power — sporting woven head-dresses with colourful blumes. You might spot a few fans wearing the vinok on Saturday.
- Wayne Rooney scored the winning goal when England defeated Ukraine 1-0 in Donetsk during the group stages of Euro 2012. Ukraine were co-hosts with Poland, but failed to qualify for the knockout.
- Never mind the vuvuzela — Ukraine has the world’s longest musical instrument. The horn, or trembita, would drown out the pipe that proved to be so annoying during the world cup in South Africa.
- If Ukraine lose on Saturday their fans can drown their sorrows with horilka, which is similar to vodka. This national drink is 40per cent alcohol and is sure to offer an even deadlier hangover.
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