I'm no fanatic on the Champions League, the officiating is often dodgy but all the same, the Ukrainian club of Shaktar Donetsk is certainly one of the big stories of the Champions League Tournament so far. They defeated Roma this past week 3-0 to advance. Truly, I do wonder if the remaining cold in somewhere like Ukraine could have had an effect, if so, I would not think too much though they are certainly a bit of a distance for most of the mainstream European clubs. The professionals should be ready to play in most kinds of weather. By the same token, Man City faltered and lost to Dynamo Kiev with Andriy Shevchenko in Ukraine as well in a Europa League match Thursday. Practically every year, we see some club that we may not know too much about, a team in the final eight coming from Greece, Turkey, Russia or from other countries. This year it is Shaktar Donetsk and one wonders if indeed they could go far in this tournament as an underdog. Like Barcelona in their own league play, Shaktar has only one loss all year.
Here's the thing about them, the makeup of the team, their manager is Romanian, Lucescu, against Roma, they started 4 Brazilians, so they have a real Brazilian connection, 3 Ukrainians and a cross section of other players, Croat, Czech, Belgian R. Rat and more. Shaktar also has Eduardo da Silva or as he is better known as "Eduardo" a naturalized Croat though Brazilian, Eduardo has played for the National Team of Croatia. Shaktar was able to win in Rome in the first game 3-2 and now won the 2nd one at home 3-0, winning in aggregate 6-2. This to me looks like it may be a very powerful team. We will have to see how they perform in the next round but it certainly looks like they will be able to challenge some if not most of all of the teams in the final 8.
Shaktar also finished ahead of Arsenal in the group stage of the CL. No small accomplishment.
Here is an English language fansite for the Club.: http://www.shakhtar.com/en/
As opposed to Shaktar, Dynamo Kiev is a somewhat legendary team from Ukraine, they were playing during World War II and that is a story to itself from a book called "Dynamo", they actually played games against Nazi Germany teams and some players on the Dynamo team may have eventually been imprisoned and died in prison. There is a big statue commemorating that outside of their stadium. I believe this topic was brought up when ESPN showed the Soccer movie with Stallone and Pele called "Victory" or "Escape To Victory" as it is called in the UK and the rest of the world and some opine that Dynamo helped inspire the movie, others say this is not so.
574719X Dynamo the Book.
But back to the point, 2nd place in Ukraine's Premier League, Dynamo has a more conventional looking roster. Against Man City, they started 6 Ukrainians and one from each country of Nigeria, Macedonia, Brazil, Finland and Croatia:
It is very easy to get wrapped up in one league, Premier League which is so accessible to us on Fox Soccer and ESPN or Serie A, La Liga, Bundesliga, Ligue 1, MLS too all have their fans, but it is obvious that there is some very good football/soccer going on in Eastern Europe. Ukrainian soccer is on the Up and Poland Ukraine will host the next Euro in 2012.