The first question for Oleh Blokhin came from the representative of Pravda, which must have been like old times for the former Soviet Union striker, now the head coach of his native Ukraine. Inevitably, it concerned the health of another heroic Ukrainian centre‑forward, Andriy Shevchenko, whose record of 48 goals in 110 matches so closely resembles Blokhin's own 42 in 112.
The 35-year-old Shevchenko, who is likely to retire from the game after this tournament, took a knock on his left knee in the defeat against France last Friday and has been missing training while trying to get fit for Tuesday night's decisive Group D meeting with England.
"It's 50-50," Blokhin conceded. "We're doing everything possible to try and get him ready for the match."
The impression he gave was that if he has to send Shevchenko out strapped to his horse, like Charlton Heston in the last scene of El Cid, then that is probably what he will do.
"Our team doesn't have so many stars," he said. "Not as many as France, Spain or Italy. Shevchenko's role is a very big one. There probably isn't another striker as good in Ukraine nowadays. If he can't play tomorrow, it's a big loss for us. But we still have 24 hours."
Why did he think that, after glorious years with Dynamo Kyiv and Milan, Shevchenko had failed at Chelsea? "I've never talked to him about that. Probably it was something between the coach and the player. After he played so well in Italy, it was very strange. But I don't want to talk about it. Ask him."
He was not there to ask, unfortunately, being excused attendance at the press conference in order to receive attention on the treatment table, and eventually the 59-year-old Blokhin tired of being asked about his captain and only superstar.
"I'm getting the impression that this press conference is only about Shevchenko," he growled. "I don't have just him in my team. There are 22 other players. I understand it. I understand he's a great player. But we have two other players here" – the Shakhtar Donetsk goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov and the Metalist Kharkiv forward Marco Devic, sitting next to him in near-silence – "and it's not fair only to ask questions about him."
The stadium will be full on Tuesday night, but the people of Donetsk will not be turning out in great numbers to support their national team. At least 90% of them, according to local sources, are still in mourning for Russia's sudden exit from Euro 2012, which means that most of the 40-odd thousand fans getting behind the home team in the Donbass Arena will have travelled hundreds of miles from Kiev, Lviv, Kharkiv and other towns where they say "Scasty vam", in the native Ukrainian idiom, when they wish you good luck, rather than "Udachi", the Russian form, which is what they say in Donetsk.
Russian is the preferred language of this part of eastern Ukraine, where the city of Donetsk exists thanks to an enterprising Welshman named John Hughes – "John Yuz" in the local tourist literature – who arrived in the middle of the 19th century and turned it into a centre of mining and steel production. The Russian border is less than an hour's drive away and when England played France here last week, chants of "Ross-iya! Ross-iya!" could be heard from the locals at one end of the stadium.
Ukraine's 61-year-old president, Viktor Yanukovych, was born near Donetsk, studied at the city's university and served as its state governor, and has followed local inclinations by strengthening the country's ties with Vladimir Putin's Russia. He is a close associate of the oligarch Rinat Akhmetov, another son of Donetsk, who bought Shakhtar and built the spectacular stadium – the first in eastern Europe built to meet Uefa's elite standards, set amid a landscaped park – in which Tuesday night's match will take place.
Ukraine's national history is too complex to summarise, stretching from the middle ages, when the Kyivan Rus' was the most powerful state in Europe, to membership of the Soviet Union – interrupted by Nazi occupation – and eventual independence 21 years ago. It has been partitioned and purged so often that it is no wonder the cracks still show in the division between nationalists and those who still look to Russia, a conflict symbolised by the prison sentence currently being served in Kharkiv by the leader of the opposition, Yulia Tymoshenko.
But the home team on Tuesday night will be led by the sort of figure capable, if anyone is, of uniting the country. Shevchenko was the youngest player to score for Ukraine, at the age of 17 in a defeat by Turkey, and his brace of headers against Sweden last week made him the oldest, too.
Even his name shares a special resonance: every town and city already has its Shevchenko Street and its Shevchenko Park. They are named after Taras Shevchenko, a former serf who became the national poet; it is as if Wayne Rooney had been born Wayne Shakespeare. And many people, not just Ukrainians, would like one last glimpse.