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It’s hard to believe that it has been almost four years since Euro 2012, a tournament that delivered its fair share of drama and memorable moments. One of these, writes Adam Murphy, was the brace from Andriy Shevchenko that saw his Ukraine side beat Sweden in their opening group game.
Some will say that since he captained his country to the quarter-final of the 2006 World Cup his career went downhill. After a frustrating time at Chelsea and a disastrous loan return to AC Milan, Shevchenko returned home to the Ukraine to the club where it all began, Dynamo Kiev. He settled back in and became an important part of the side, once again feeling wanted. While all of this was happening at club level the striker continued to captain the Ukraine national side despite critics saying that he was past it.
He made it clear that he wanted to be involved in the European Championship in his own country in 2012. And after he was called into the squad there was a certain feeling that Shevchenko wanted to prove to his critics that he could perform on the big stage once again. And, given that he was 35 at the time, this would most likely be his final opportunity to do so.
On the 11th of June the stage was set. Ukraine played Sweden in the Olympic Stadium in Kiev. The sides came in level at half time at 0-0 but soon after the restart Zlatan Ibrahimovic broke the deadlock with a close range finish to put Sweden 1-0 up. It only took three minutes for Shevchenko to reply, scoring with a powerful header on 55 minutes and then netting another header on 62 minutes to give his side the lead. The man who Ukraine relied on for so long had not only given them their only win in the European Championships but he scored their only goals in the group.
Although it was a disappointing tournament for Ukraine missing out on the last eight, Shevchenko showed everyone just why his country depended on him, scoring 48 goals in 111 caps. After Euro 2012 he retired from football for a career in politics, declining the opportunity to manage the Ukraine in the process.