Kovalenko and Sarnavskyi: FIFA’s view

The official FIFA website published an article about the Ukraine leaders participating in the FIFA U-20 World Cup. We bring you the most interesting excerpts from the piece about the Pitmen entitled The Donetsk duo lighting up New Zealand.

About set play

Viktor Kovalenko and Bohdan Sarnavskyi, friends and team-mates with Ukraine and Shakhtar Donetsk, are discussing their duels during free-kick practice in training. And the former's success rate is causing some debate.

"Viktor is very good at free-kicks, so he gets a few past me," the keeper says of Ukraine's star forward, scorer of a superb set piece in the 3-0 win over USA. "I don't make it easy for him, but he's a great player."

About Kovalenko’s hat trick and the goalscorers race

Kovalenko's class has been evident in all three of Ukraine's matches, and in every one of his five goals thus far. But the full extent of his potential was revealed by the scintillating second-half hat-trick that undid the Americans, taking Ukraine through as Group A winners.

"Am I surprised he is top scorer? Not at all," said Petrakov. "He should be top scorer and he should finish the tournament as top scorer. And I'm sure he will."

Bohdan Sarnavskyi supported the coach’s statement:

"I agree with the coach," came his deadpan reply. "In fact, I'm pretty confident about it." "You wouldn't know to see him on the field that he's a year younger than everyone else in the team," said Sarnavskyi. "He is much stronger than most of the players in this tournament and I'm sure that won't be his last hat-trick at a World Cup."

As for Kovalenko himself, the swagger with which he plays is nowhere to be seen in his off-field demeanour. But amid the youthful shyness, there is a steely determination not to become distracted by targets he perceives to be essentially selfish.

"Honestly, I'm not even thinking about that," he said of the top-scorer race. "Personal awards should always be secondary in a team sport. My only ambition is for Ukraine. I want us to reach the final."

About Sarnavskyi’s successful performance

At the other end of the field, Sarnavskyi has lived up to his reputation as one of his position's rising stars, emerging from the group phase having registered three clean sheets and one superb penalty save.

"Bohdan is a good friend of mine, but anyone can see that he is a great keeper," Kovalenko said. "To have kept a clean sheet in every match - how can we ask anything more?"

But just as Ukraine's talented forward is resisting the desire to chase the top-scorer award, so their equally impressive keeper is unmoved by talk of the tournament's goalkeeping equivalent: the adidas Golden Glove.

"It would be nice, but I'm not here for that trophy," he said. "If my team wins the World Cup and another goalkeeper gets that award, I definitely won't be disappointed. "I'm very happy we're the only team not have to conceded here, but that is a great achievement which is not only mine. As for saving the penalty, let's just say I have my secrets. I also saved one in the European Championship last year, so I suppose I'm doing something right."

Photo courtesy of fifa.com

FC Shakhtar