GoalChatter Special Report
There's only one right way to watch the World Cup Qualifiers, and that's sitting two seats away from someone who played at a World Cup. The American Fan Sports Club (Клуб любителей спорта), with honorary president, former Dynamo Kyiv captain and 1962 World Cup participant Viktor Kanevskyi, hosted a viewing party for the first leg of the Ukraine vs France World Cup Qualifying match. The Club, run by Iosif Tartakovskiy and Mark Schneider, did a terrific job at setting up a friendly, inviting atmosphere for football fans of all ages to watch the game the proper way: on a big screen and with sweet pastries served in the back.
As we were waiting for an issue with the wi-fi connection to be resolved, supporters reminisced about the Ukraine NT's previous games, as well as players of old that had excelled for the national team. All attention soon turned to the broadcast, with commentary in Ukrainian. The game was underway, and so were the collective cheers, groans and applause. If there was any doubt that there would be a small audience, it soon subsided. The room was packed with over 50 Russian-speaking football enthusiasts, Dynamo Kyiv fans among them. There were a few representatives of local Russian press, including sports journalist and Fan Club press secretary Vladimir Gurvich, who hosts the weekly Russian-language sports show on Davidzon Radio. Aside from Kanevskyi, other notable guests included former player and SKA Lviv coach Mikhail Rybak, as well as a former player who claimed to be an understudy of the famous Georgian striker Mikheil Meskhi. Gifts were presented to Kanevskyi and another distinguished guest in the form of beautifully-crafted electric kettles.
|Second from left: 1962 WC participant Viktor Kanevskyi © Aleks V 2013|
Viktor Kanevskyi shared his thoughts on the match during halftime. He mentioned that aside from Franck Ribery, there was nothing much to be said about France's game, while Ukraine played a great first half. The French, he said, would do well with a tie going into the 2nd leg, but Ukraine needed a win. At the end of the game, someone noted that while most had their doubts on Ukraine getting anything other than a draw, it was Kanevskyi who knew from the very beginning there'd be nothing short of a victory for the national team. Fan Club Chairman Vladimir Grinberg provided commentary on the refereeing, pointing to a foul in the box on Ukraine forward Zozulya that should have been a penalty call.
As anyone who's seen the game would know, it was quite worthy of a World Cup Qualifier. Both teams were eager to score and showed no signs of slowing down throughout the 90 minutes. Despite that, however, there were few shots on target for either side. Ukraine went ahead 1:0 after Zozulya slotted the ball in the near post after a series of scrambles in the box, while Yarmolenko made it 2:0 with his penalty kick. The keeper guessed the direction of the ball, but his ill-timed jump barely allowed him to touch the ball with his fingertips before it went in the net. The referee sent off one player per team, France's Koscielny and Ukraine's Kucher, both after second yellows. However, both sendings-off happened in added time. With a few minutes left to play, France was unable to make use of their remaining chances, giving Ukraine an advantage going into the second leg in France.
Indeed, the 1st leg left very good impressions on both the viewing party and the game. The latter could be summed up in Zozulya's perfectly-timed goal and in the reactions of Ukraine president Viktor Yanukovych, who watched from the stands, clad in a patriotic football scarf, and was undoubtedly the most elated spectator.