Andriy Pyatov FIFA World Cup 2014

No Finish Line

5:17 PMAleks Vee

Moldova's National Team came off two consecutive losses in World Cup Qualifiers, including a 5-0 defeat to England. Disregarding the supremacy of the Three Lions over FIFA's 145th ranked team, it was evident in today's game that even an average National Team can take on Ion Caras's Moldova. What should have been a pretty simple win for the Yellow-Blues turned into one of those chance-filled spectacles in which nobody scores. Ukraine manager Oleh Blokhin was unable to be at the match after having had surgery to remove a blood clot, leaving the Qualifier in the hands of his assistant. Luckily, Ukraine came off strong, not letting Moldova finish, but lost the ball in the midfield on several occasions. Nevertheless, the Moldovan side had no real chances. Ukraine missed a bucket-full of chances from several meters out and a whole lot more on set pieces. Moldova could have gotten ahead before halftime if it wasn't for the French referee's blatant disregard of defender Yevhen Khacheridi's handball. The official soon committed another error, calling for a goal kick after a Ukraine corner deflected off of a defending Moldovan. Yarmolenko was active on the right flank, but his closest attempts made their way behind the net. Another somewhat controversial moment graced the game when the referee seemingly disregarded what looked like a goal from the Ukraine side. Some commentators however speculated that Husyev's ball went off the crossbar. There was no question though that Butko's attempt on the rebound from 5 meters out did not make its way in, having been cleared by Moldova's Onica. An error on Khacheridi's part gave Moldova their first serious attempt, a one-on-one rendezvous by Igor Picuşceac that was cut short only by the brilliance of good goalkeeping.

The Moldovans managed to even out the first half and parts of the second, but were clearly unable to create even half as many chances as Ukraine. Hats off to their keeper, who had quite a lot of work to do during the game, saving a lot of close-range shots. While Ukraine spent the second half creating as many, if not more chances than they had in the first, the same problem persisted. Whether it was Zozulya not getting on the end of the ball or Yarmolenko's reckless shots, the players were still unable to finish. It's no wonder that all three substitutions brought in forwards. The team's set piece chances kept on coming and coming, as did the missed attempts -Yarmolenko's ball behind the net, Rotan's ball over the top, Marko Devych's embarassing miss from three meters out...The one attempt that was of critical importance - Rotan's late free kick from outside the box - was miraculously saved by none other than Moldovan keeper Stanislav Namaşco. The 25-year-old keeper has 27 caps for Ukraine and plays for Kuban Krasnodar in the Russian Premier League. He's already made a name for himself after having saved an Ibrahimovic penalty in March 2011. With a performance like today's, he'll save many more. Although Ukraine's keeper, Andriy Pyatov, did not see quite as much action as Namaşco, he came through with a fantastic save of his own towards the end of regulation time, diving in to clear Gațcan's shot from 25 meters out.

Namasco saves for Moldova from all possible angles. AFP PHOTO/ SERGEI SUPINSKY
A well-prepared Ukraine failed to get an important three points. The game was played well enough to be devoid of any reckless challenges; the only two yellows given out were for dissent, which could easily have been prevented. It's hard to blame lack of motivation for this result; it's obvious Ukraine could have won, had they managed to get at least one ball in. The team could have scored on so many occasions that the 0-0 draw is almost paradoxical. They were today's England, and the game should have been at least 5-0 in favor of the Yellow-Blues. At times the Moldovans played nearly an equal game. Five players from Moldova's NT play in the Russian Premier League, a testament to the skill and talent in the RPL.

Ukraine may be undefeated in their first two games, but they haven't won yet either. Blokhin's players have proven time and time again that they have what it takes to do well in big tournaments. But there's a clear difference between having potential and using it. Sometimes teams that are ranked lower and don't necessarily play better make it further. It's all about finishing the job, getting the goals in. The Yellow-Blues have had a record of creating moments and being unable to finish. It's their Achilles' heel going into any tournament. Even if the team qualifies, they'll have to overcome this problem before they can ever truly hope to be the team to beat.



2014 FIFA World Cup Qualifiers
Friday, October 12, 2012, 2:00PM EST

Moldova vs. Ukraine - 0:0 (0:0)
Arena: Zimbru Stadium (Chişinău, Moldova)
Referee: Clément Turpin (Oullins, France)
Goals: N/A

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