Ukraine’s national football team gave the troubled nation some sporting comfort with a 2-0 friendly victory over the USA.
But the result gave far less comfort to USA coach Jurgen Klinsmann and his World Cup-bound team.
Andriy Yarmolenko scored in the 12th minute and Marko Devic in the 68th as Ukraine exposed the experimental American central defensive pairing of Oguchi Onyewu and Anthony Brooks.
Ukraine coach Mykhailo Fomenko said: “Of course we do it for our supporters, for our country. I asked (the players) to make our people happy, we had to show that we’re all united.”
US coach Jurgen Klinsmann added: “This whole build-up you feel for that country, you feel for that nation and there’s nothing more than wishing them well and to solve these issues peacefully, this is certainly what we wish them, what we pray for them.”
Before kickoff, Ukraine players linked arms on shoulders during their national anthem and both teams bowed their heads for a moment’s silence for victims of the violence in Ukraine. A banner in the stands read “Ukraine is Undivided!” on the top and “One Country — One Team!” on the bottom.
The crowd of 1,573 at Papadopoulos Stadium, which has a capacity of about 10,000, was so small that players could be heard talking with each other during the game. Ukrainian fans sang their nation’s anthem in the final moments.
“Our country is facing difficult times now, we must support our team and our country,” said Oleg Ivanovskyi a fan from Kiev currently residing in Larnaca. “Ukraine lives and will live. This friendly match is important for us to show the friendship between the US and Ukraine. The friendship between the two countries is more important than the score.”
The opening goal came in the 12th minute when Andriy Yarmolenko pounced on a rebound after an initial shot by Denys Garmash was parried by goalkeeper Tim Howard.
A speedy run down the middle by substitute Marko Devic in the 68th caught the US defense flatfooted and the Rubin Kazan forward scored at the second attempt when Howard again blocked the initial shot.
Klinsmann said of a backline that was playing together for the first time: “It’s understandable that collectively, it’s not clicking, it would be half a miracle if we would click. It was difficult for a lot of players to get into a rhythm.”
Klinsmann said the game offered him the chance to glean valuable information about individual European-based players and the team to better prepare for the World Cup in Brazil.
“I think it would be totally wrong to criticize what went wrong,” he said. “It’s still a lot of work to be done and a lot to build on.”
The Americans picked up their game in the second half and Alejandro Bedoya, Clint Dempsey and Sunderland’s Jozy Altidore all came close to scoring. But few players will feel like they particularly advanced their World Cup prospects.