Club/Nation: Dynamo Kiev/Ukraine
The Ukraine’s Andriy Yarmolenko certainly has a reputation to live up to in the 2011 UEFA European Under-21 Championships. His performances this season for Dynamo Kiev have had his fellow countrymen comparing him to teammate, and former AC Milan and Chelsea great, Andriy Shevchenko.
The 21-year-old, voted among the 100 best young players in the world by the prestigious Don Balon magazine last year, features mainly as an out-and-out striker or left-winger but is comfortable anywhere along the front line. At 6’1” tall Yarmolenko is a significant aerial threat and far from being a conventional winger, but if he does have a weakness then it is that he is predominantly left-footed, although his physicality more than compensates for it. Occasionally he has been used as an impact player, coming off the bench to demonstrate his speed and finishing ability in the latter stages, but he will demand a starting role in Pavlo Yakovenko´s side.
Yarmolenko is currently in his fourth season at the Lobanovsky Stadium after joining from Desna Chernhiv, but his first year was spent with Dynamo´s second string. Some impressive performances, with eight goals in 37 games, then propelled him into the first team and he made his debut as a substitute in a 5-3 penalty shoot-out defeat to Shakhtar Donetsk in the Russian Super Cup in July, 2008.
Having made 10 starts in the 2008/09 season, his big break came the following year when he started the season for Dynamo and responded with four goals in seven games, prompting Ukraine national team boss – and former Glasgow Rangers midfielder – Aleksei Mikhailichenko, to give him his full international debut. He did not disappoint, opening the scoring in a 5-0 demolition of Andorra, and has since gone on to gain 11 full caps with two goals.
Yarmolenko has represented his country just six times at Under-21 level, scoring once against Malta, but he will arrive in Denmark with a great deal of European experience for one so young. This season he has outscored both Shevchenko and Artem Milveski by notching 11 goals, and has thus far amassed 15 in 55 Dynamo appearances. Recently linked with a move to both Juventus and AC Milan following notable displays in the Europa League: he was an instrumental figure in the last-16 defeat of Manchester City in March and also scored Dynamo´s only goal in the home leg of the 1-1 defeat on away goals to Braga in the semi-final of the same competition.
Ukraine Under-21´s are drawn in the same group as the three tournament favourites – Spain, England and the Czech Republic – and it will be no mean feat to qualify for the next phase. However, with 10 Champions League appearances to his name, including games against Barcelona and Inter Milan, expect Yarmolenko to make a significant impact if his country can take the scalp of at least one of the big boys.