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Putting a spoke in the wheel or providing a reward: how the Ukrainian national team played against the winners of the Golden Ball

Artem RossinskyNews
The national team of Ukraine intersected with really cool players

Have you ever wondered how many of the world's best players have faced the Ukrainian national football team? We have counted – eight Ballon d'Or winners have played against the national team in the history of independence. How did these matches end and was our team able to counteract them? OBOZ.UA has carefully recalled every such match since the first official match in the spring of 1992.

The era of Ronaldo and Messi, but without Messi

Let's start with the players who have won the Ballon d'Or the most in history and in recent years. Ronaldo was in his best form, and the heyday of his talent was a headache for many blue and yellow defenders. But Cristiano never managed to give his best, and moreover, he has never won in Ukraine. We met twice in 2019, as part of the qualifiers for Euro 2020. Having played both matches for 90 minutes, in the first game the star Portuguese did not make it through Kryvtsov and Pyatov, and in the second he was able to score only from the penalty spot. And even then, we beat a formidable European team at the Olimpiyskiy.

Putting a spoke in the wheel or providing a reward: how the Ukrainian national team played against the winners of the Golden Ball

Messi has never tasted confrontation with Rotan, Fedetskyi, or Zabarnyi: the multiple champion of several European championships has never played against Ukraine. And Argentina itself has never played against the Ukrainians either. We don't have many matches with opponents from overseas, only in the goods trainers of the early 10s. Perhaps if Ukraine qualifies for the 26th World Cup and Leo is still playing, the teams will be able to cross paths in the group. But this will be a completely different story.

The Brazilian four, which Ukraine did not get to

Since 1991, four Brazilians have won the Ballon d'Or: Kaka, Ronaldo, Ronaldinho, and Rivaldo. Longtime fans will remember that we played our only friendly against Brazil in 2010. Back then, in the English town of Derby at the Pride Park Stadium, Ukraine lost 2-0. It was an interesting match, with Elias, Luiz, Santos, Robinho, and Ramirez playing against Milevskyi, Kucher, Rotan, Husev, and Fedetskyi.

But not a single World Cup winner has ever played against Ukraine. The inimitable Ronaldinho has been called up to Brazil occasionally, especially for friendly matches. The prime Kaka, a representative of Real Madrid at the time, was injured and missed the entire window of fall sparring. Ronaldo is somewhat similar in fate to the "wizard": he was not called up to his country's camp after the 2006 World Cup, ending his career with fourteen minutes against Romania in 2011. Rivaldo, on the other hand, had retired from playing for the national team 7 years before this meeting.

The exoticism of the early years

Do you remember who took the goal when the Ukrainian national team was just formed? These were representatives of not-so-big football powers. For example, Liberian George Weah (then a player for AC Milan) and Bulgarian Christo Stoichkov (then a player for Barcelona). We didn't get to play against the former: African teams as Ukraine's rivals can be counted on one hand, and Liberia itself didn't play matches with European teams at the time.

Instead, there is something to remember about Stoichkov: "We met Bulgaria once, in 1994. At that time, the country was preparing for its best-ever trip to the World Cup in a sparring match with us, reaching the semifinals and leaving behind Argentina, Mexico, and Germany. As for the face-to-face sparring, Stoichkov played 65 minutes as captain, and the striker failed to score for Ukraine.

Putting a spoke in the wheel or providing a reward: how the Ukrainian national team played against the winners of the Golden Ball

European lottery from the best players in the world

Here we should start with Italy. The same Italy that won the World Cup in 2006 and broke our fantastic streak. Cannavaro played his role to the fullest then: under his captaincy, the national team ran like crazy. The striker played four games against Ukraine, all of them winless. He has a lot to tell about the Euro 2008 qualifiers, where our players could have prevented us from qualifying for the tournament. But the most memorable will definitely be the World Cup match with a 3-0 defeat of SaSho and company. After that World Cup, Cannavaro received his award as the only defender to win the Ballon d'Or in the new century.

Since Ukraine's independence, only one player from Germany has won the World Cup. This is Matthias Zammer, a representative of the phenomenal Borussia Dortmund. He played for the first team for only 7 years but managed to play several stellar matches. He had two opportunities to face the Ukrainians in the qualifiers for the 1998 World Cup, but without Matthias we lost 2-0 and with him on the field we drew zero with the Germans. It was an interesting qualifier, where we lost to them by only 2 points and qualified for the playoffs. The Croats stopped us one step away from the desired World Cup.

Speaking of Croatia. Not long ago, the tireless captain Modric finally received a well-deserved award. Luka in our rating has the best performance among midfielders: he played 4 times during the World Cup qualifiers. He scored a goal in 2009 and an assist in 2017 in the decisive game for qualification for the tournament.

But the undisputed king of matches against Ukraine is Benzema. 6 games, a goal, and 4 assists – you definitely remember that 3-0 away win against France after the mockery in Kyiv. For Karim, the national team is already a fond memory, but the Ukrainian fan remembers Benzema as one of the most principled rivals among the players. By the way, his position colleague, Zidane, took the field against the Ukrainian national team only twice and scored only one goal in a friendly. It was 2 years before the last final in the star player's history.

We will add two legends of the end of the last century to the strongest national teams. This is another Portuguese on our list - Figo. He had only two games against Ukraine, both in the already mentioned qualifiers for the 1998 World Cup, and then our players first declared themselves as a great team. In one game, we defeated the Portuguese, and in the other, they defeated us. And it was in that game that Luis gave an assist to Couto, the author of the only goal of the match in Porto. Michael Owen is a match for him. During his career, England played two friendly matches against our country, but the striker played only one match, where he scored a goal against Shovkovsky in 2004.

A whole set of players never made it to the squads that Ukraine played: either they were not on the roster (because it was a friendly) or had already retired by that time. These were the Frenchman Papin, the Czech Nedved, and two Dutchmen, van Basten and Gullit. However, the history of our national team shows that we can handle many of the world's best players and even humiliate their teams with our own great play.

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