Euro 2012: One to watch – Andriy Yarmolenko, Ukraine

Name: Andriy Yarmolenko

Age: 22

Position: Midfield

Club/Nation: Dynamo Kiev/Ukraine

When Andriy Shevchenko, Ukrainian hero and national team captain, calls someone the ‘future of Ukrainian football’, there’s a high chance that player will have magnificent talent. Shevchenko’s words were centred on Andriy Yarmolenko, the 22 year old playmaker who is forging quite a name for himself in Eastern Europe.

Coincidentally, Yarmolenko’s hero was the legendary Ukraine number seven and growing up in Chernihiv, Shevchenko’s performances in a Dynamo Kiev shirt made Yarmolenko dream about continuing the legacy the former Chelsea forward left in Ukraine’s capital.

In 2006, Dynamo moved quickly to give their former academy player a second chance, committing him to a five-year deal and allowing his talent to develop in the reserve side. Yarmolenko got his break under former Kiev coach Valery Gazzaev, but instead of his now much-acknowledged role as a playmaker, the 22 year old was deployed as a left-back or a winger because of his fantastic speed and nearly as quick feet.

The return of Yuri Semin to Dynamo in December 2010 ignited Yarmolenko’s talent and bids of £8m from Russian outfit Rubin Kazan and £10m from Italian Cup holders Napoli have been rejected by Dynamo president Ihor Surkis. Despite Yarmolenko’s 12 goals and performances that earned him 2011/12 Player of the Year, Surkis’ prediction of the 22 year old leading Kyiv to the title proved mistaken as Shakhtar won the Premier League for the third season in a row.

Yarmolenko’s international debut came in September 2009, but it was nearly two years on from that date when he made his most significant impact. The record for fastest goalscorer was smashed by Yarmolenko after he scored just 15 seconds into a friendly against Uruguay in Kharkiv. Ukraine coach Oleg Blokhin believes that Yarmolenko is ‘unstoppable’ when on form and holds high hopes for him to assist Shevchenko in achieving a respected finish for the Zhovto-Blakytni.

The Arsenal contingent in the England squad could be getting their first glimpse at a new teammate on the 19th June, as Yarmolenko has been touted for a move to North London this summer. Arsenal boss Arsene Wenger keen to bring in a replacement for the presumably outgoing Andrei Arshavin and will have a close eye on Ukraine’s brightest hope.

England, France and Sweden will face difficutly figuring out how to stop the threat of Yarmolenko. He can be a direct winger and burn past a fullback playing on his natural left side or play in a central role up front and use his physical strength to give central defenders nightmares. Another thing Yarmolenko can do, and has done occasionally in the build-up to Euro 2012, is feature on the right hand side and cut inside, looking to unleash the venomous shot he holds in his wondrous left foot. The big stage is waiting and Yarmolenko is desperate to show the rest of Europe what Ukraine has known for a long time.

Check out the Euro 2012 odds and get some tips on the European Championships betting.

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