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Taras Stepanenko: Albania are a strong team

Thursday, June 2, 2016



Midfielder of Shakhtar and Ukraine national team speaks of the preparation for the friendly match against Albania and the European Championship kickoff

- Taras, how did the victory over Romania influence the team’s emotional and physical state?
- It was a game after the recovery training. It was a bit difficult, as we hadn’t played together since March. Therefore, in the first half, not everything worked, though after the break we looked better. A win is always followed by some good mood. And it helps to recover faster after the workloads. And, of course, such victories gives you confidence.

- Not that often you are allowed to bring your families to the training camp site? How useful was that gesture on the part of the coaching staff?
- I think it was the right decision after such a busy season. Shakhtar play away all the time. Still, I want to see my kids grow. The workloads in the first training camp were the same, but they were much easier to bear, because my family was with me. That’s very good for your psychological state.

- It is clear that at the European Championship the team will be based separately. Nevertheless, will you enjoy any personal support in France?
- Yes, my wife, mother and mother-in-law are coming. An event like the European Championship does not happen every year, and it is important to me that my relatives are near. To them, I think, that’s also important.

- Tell us about the second stage of preparation, which is underway in Switzerland. In what conditions are you preparing for the European Championships?
- We live in the Swiss town of Ascona near Italy. That’s a very beautiful place: mountains, and we are based on the bank of a lake. We have excellent conditions for recovery, there is a gym and enough space to walk around. As for the work, it’s more targeted now. Every day, we have theory sessions, sometimes one or two training sessions. Basically, at the first training camp, we also trained twice a day – just exercising and training. Currently, we dedicate more time to theory, preparation for specific opponents, mastering playing links, with many tactical sessions. It is important that we approach the European Championships being a coherent and organised team. In this kind of competition, all the opponents are high-profile, and all the matches will be very challenging.

- So you do some targeted preparation for taking on the EURO group stage opponents?
- Before the previous friendly, we watched a couple of games of Germany national team. But in general, we were preparing for the encounter against the Romanians, and now – against Albania. Of course, all friendlies are part of our preparation for the EURO. We will focus on analysing the Germans’ performance after the meeting with the Albanians.
- Albania are your last opponents before the EURO competition. What do you make of them?
- I did not particularly followed them, but they are a strong team. They have some good, fast and technically skilled players, as well as some experienced players. Almost all of them play in strong European leagues: Germany, Italy, France and Switzerland. The Albanians’ coach worked for many years in Italy. The team are very organised and tactically competent. No wonder they claimed a high place in their qualifying group. Because Albania played very well all the games we have watched.