Ukraine may have been one of the last nations to secure their place at this year’s European Championships, but expectations of a reprise of their best-ever finish at the 2021 edition remain high.

Their 2-1 win over Iceland in the do-or-die qualifier a fortnight ago means Germany will be the nation’s fourth-consecutive Euros, after their maiden appearance as joint-hosts in 2012; there is no denying this one means a little more, as the country’s besiegement at the hands of Russia continues.

‘Some would say it really is one of the most important victories in Ukrainian sporting history, certainly in recent memory – not only due to the importance of making the European Championships this summer, but also with everything it will mean for the country’, Andrew Todos of Zorya Londonsk told Box2Box.

‘It was the fourth game of the [manager] Serhiy Rebrov-era where they’ve come back from behind, so there’s something of a spirited, excited nature with Ukraine that when they do go behind they can rally – that’s been embodied on the pitch, and elsewhere, too.’

A legendary striker with Dynamo Kyiv who’s lengthy domestic career was interspersed with stints at Tottenham and West Ham, manager Rebrov was initially sought out to replace Andriy Shevchenko after the latter’s departure following their 2021 run to the quarter-finals.

The Ukrainian Association of Football had to be patient, cycling through Oleksandr Petrakov and Ruslan Rotan in the interim, but landed their man in June 2023. Since that point, they’ve lost just once through nine cut-throat Euros qualifiers.

‘He was the No.1 target when Shevchenko left but sadly, he’d just signed a contract with Al-Ain in the UAE, where he was for two years. They finally got him last summer and he’s kind of a no-nonsense manager, but he’s got a lot of respect from the players.

‘He has a very high reputation from a coaching perspective; he did well in his first job at Dynamo Kyiv, winning two titles; he did really well in Hungary with Ferencvaros, qualifying them for the Champions League [Group stage] for the first time in 25 years.

‘He’s seen as the best Ukrainian coach at the moment, and the fact he came to them shows he understood this was his duty, in a sense, to take on this important role at this time.’

The sky now appears the limit, on paper: drawn into a group of Belgium (FIFA ranking #3), Slovakia (48) and Romania (46), Ukraine (22) have the chance to bank progression to the knockout stage before their toughest group assignment.

‘There is now an expectation to make it out of the group, and some people, myself included, think Ukraine should possibly be challenging for top spot, given the way the fixtures pan out. Romania first, then Slovakia, before Belgium which could be a showdown for top spot.

‘But in making it, the most important thing is during those three games and the build up to them is it will give a bit more visibility to Ukraine. [The war] has dropped out of the headlines, that’s naturally how the news cycle goes.

‘This time, Ukraine can kind of push what is still happening on a daily basis to a wider audience, who may not follow news and current affairs closely, to refresh everyone’s memories.’