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We will do our best so that Ukraine has the European spring

Monday, September 18, 2023



Midfielder and captain of Shakhtar Taras Stepanenko shared his expectations for the match against Porto at the press conference

– Is the new European campaign unknown territory for you or do you know you are ready based on what you did last season in the group stage?
– It is difficult to say what will happen. When I heard that we will play in Hamburg and that almost 37,000 season tickets had already been bought, I knew that these matches would be great for us. We like to play in front of the audience, to feel the support. We know how German people support Ukraine and Ukrainian people. A lot of Ukrainians live in Germany, so I think that we will have good support tomorrow and during the Champions League group stage. I hope we can do our best and get a good result.

– Shakhtar were great in the previous season of the Champions League. Can we expect a good performance like this in this season? How do you think the team changed, because a lot of new young players from different countries joined the team? Are they ready to play yet?
– Of course, we always want to say that we will win all six matches, get out of the group and everything will be great. But I cautiously look at any predictions out there and try to be honest and open with myself and others. I think that we have a very good, strong team, a new coach with new requirements for the players, for the team, and we are getting used to these requirements. All young guys are also getting used to these requirements. Perhaps, the Champions League matches are games with a completely different intensity. You play against teams with extensive experience and more intense football, and I felt that in the matches between the national teams. I can say that the team are ready, the team will do everything to achieve the result. We are all ready: we want to play and achieve the result in the Champions League. And it is very difficult to predict how it goes. I think no one expected such result from us last year, but we came on and did it. This year you already ask this question because you expect something from us. And we, in turn, want to do our best so that Ukraine has the European spring. That is why we need not to talk, but to work, to prepare for each match and to do what the coach requires.

– I would like to ask about your opinion about Porto.
– Yes, after the draw I got a question what my opinion about the opponents was. I answered in Ukrainian, then it was translated into English, and then into Portuguese. And in the morning, I woke up and saw a lot of abusive messages on Instagram. I do not know what happened during the translation. I even saved some of them on my phone because it was really funny. I think that very dedicated supporters of Porto just defended their team, I liked that. But really, it was just a misunderstanding. During my career I have played against Portuguese Porto, Benfica, Braga, they are very strong teams. And that is what I said about Porto. We watched their last games in the championship, where they had three wins and one draw. They looked great last season in the Champions League and played very well. This team have a lot of skilful players, very experienced players like Pepe, who is 40. It is incredible! So, of course, we respect Porto, but we would like to play our football and show a great performance tomorrow for our country and our people.

– As I know, some players will make their debut in the Champions League. When you started your football career, was there any advice from the coach that changed your life? What will you say to these guys in the dressing room as a captain?
– Before my first game in the Champions League, the head coach met me in the elevator and said: "You are ready!", and that was all. If you play for Shakhtar, you have to be ready. And if you are not ready, then you will not play here. We have a good team spirit, a good team, everyone tries to help each other. If any of them play tomorrow because Mister decided so, they will do their best and enjoy the game.