Shevchenko scores twice in fairytale win for Ukraine over Sweden
Even the wackiest scriptwriter in the darkest depths of seedy Hollywood, after smoking some of the strangest substances of mind-altering dimensions could not, without becoming the immediate recipient of hysterical laughter, conceived of such a scenario.
To the footballing fandom of this planet, one man gave and continues to give the small nation of Ukraine a discernible identity. To many, Andriy Shevchenko is Ukraine. Accordingly, for him to star in such a lead role, in such a role of fantastic and unrelenting joy, is one of the most galvanizing and uplifting stories of this championship.
For the past two seasons, Dynamo Kiev have, perhaps a tad begrudgingly, harboured this genius only for the communal belief that, once 2012 rolled round, it would feel distinctly abnormal if the most forthright avatar of Ukrainian ability was absent from its most glorious moment. Sheva would play.
Such a phenomenon has been the topic of mass discussion among the nation’s footballing fraternity. Some see a Ukrainian tram splintered and somehow reduced by the continued prominence of ageing stars such as Shevchenko, Andriy Voronin and Anatoliy Tymoschuk. It has often been stated that, in their controversial preparations for their home tournament, Ukraine have, through this prism of unwavering loyalty, restricted the growth and progress of bright young players such as Andriy Yarmolenko.
On the nation’s defining night, however, the old warhorse once again embraced the role of saviour.
Blessed with an innate and rarely replicated sense of goal, a footballing brain of incomprehensible talent, and a thorough alertness, Shevchenko was always a legend. In his days at AC Milan, the feisty and relentless Ukrainian made the art of goalscoring look as easy as pulling on ones socks in the morning. The man was born to play, to score, to create and to write sporting drama. On this most illustrious of nights, a tired and maligned Shevchenko saved his absolute best, most epic form of theatre for the most phenomenal moments.
Ukraine lurked in the embers of deficit. Zlatan had done his customary damage, and so, as it has done out of perpetuity for nearly two decades, this obscure yet no less talented nation called upon Andriy.
In its most ferocious hour of sporting need, Ukraine begged, one last time, for Shevchenko to help. In the throes of potential disappointment and gloom, Ukraine prayed, once more, for Andriy to intervene. The stuff of Greek legend, Shevchenko, as he has routinely done in his ambassadorial career, answered each and every prayer.
The ball was whipped with a verve and swagger into the zone where once Shevchenko earned millions. His eyes glistened in eagerness. His face contorted in concentration. His brain ticked. Rolling back the years, Andriy Shevchenko re-enacted a moment from his scrapbook. From years gone by, this goalscoring demigod returned, endowed once more with blistering pace and an unrivalled nose for goal.
The movement was that of a robot trained and taught to do only one thing: score! Ghosting in with glee abandon, Andriy rose with all of his might to plant a bullet header as far and as deep into the Kiev net as is possible. Utter pandemonium ensued in what will, forever more, be known as The Andriy Shevchenko Stadium.
He had done it.
As if his status as an absolute icon, a defiant legend and a resurgent inspiration was not expedited merely by presence on the pitch, Andriy had scored. What he had planned next was just simply so stunning that it gobsmacked, simultaneously, a continent.
Peeling away at the front post just moments later from a corner, Shevchenko altruistically threw his entire body at the ball, at the cause of the Ukrainian people. With another of those bruising trademark headers, Shevchenko, quite astonishingly, fired his country ahead.
The city of Kiev came unstuck in unbridled celebration and utopia. Such scenarios are rarely experienced outside of dreams. Andriy Shevchenko had, once again, lifted upon his broad shoulders his entire nation into a position of visibility. Just as it was meant to happen.