Andriy Shevchenko: Still has the right stuff

Probably the best moment of the opening round of games at Euro 2012, hosted by Poland and Ukraine, was Andriy Shevchenko's brace of goals in Ukraine's comeback 2-1 win over Sweden on Monday. Photo: Associated Press

WASHINGTON, June 12, 2012 — Probably the best moment of the opening round of games at Euro 2012, hosted by Poland and Ukraine, was Andriy Shevchenko’s brace of goals in Ukraine’s comeback 2-1 win over Sweden on Monday.

At 35-years-old, Shevchenko is clearly in his twilight days as a player after an illustrious career at AC Milan, Chelsea and Dynamo Kyiv. The fact that he scored two stunning goals off headers before his hometown fans in a major tournament is quite remarkable.

Many critics were quite surprised to see Shevchenko starting for Ukraine. That he scored two goals is even more surprising. Shevchenko was thought to be over the hill and unfit. How he proved us all wrong. The old man left the younger defenders of Sweden in the dust with his positioning and well-taken goals at the Olimpiysky Stadium in Kiev.

Whether Ukraine can gain points in their games from England and France and advance to quarterfinals remains to be seen, but already Shevchenko, the oldest player at the event, has made his country proud. If you were to make a movie about his life, which would begin with his family fleeing their village when he was nine because of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, the game against Sweden would have been a fitting end as the striker became the oldest man ever to score two goals at the Euros. Of course this is not the end of his career — not just yet — and Shevchenko, who scored 127 goals for Milan in his heyday, may have more up his sleeve.

After his career began sputtering out at Chelsea,where he was being paid over $220,000 a week, its was assumed Shevchenko would follow David Beckham to play in Major League Soccer in the United States. The move to MLS looked tailor-made for the Ukrainian ace, who married American model Kristen Pazik in a secret wedding in the District in 2004.  
Pazik attended Georgetown Visitation Preparatory School and later graduated from James Madison. She has two young sons and is the daughter of former White Sox pitching coach, Mike Pazik.

In 2007 Shevchenko told Sports Illustrated he would like to one day play in MLS. “I’d like to play there, actually,” he said. “Soccer is growing in the U.S., and I’d like to be a part of that. I played there last summer against the MLS All-Stars, and I saw myself that it’s definitely improving.”

Alas, Shevchenko did not come to America. He returned to his old club Dynamo Kyiv where he has played the last three seasons. With the win over Sweden behind them and a game against France ahead on Friday, Shevchenko has undoubtably given Ukraine a powerful moral boost and a talisman.

What was seen as the weakest team in Group D may be rewriting the script. Watch out France and England.

For over 20 years John Haydon wrote a weekly soccer column for The Washington Times. He has covered two World Cups and written about Major League Soccer from the league’s inception in 1996. Follow John on Twitter at @Johnahaydon

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John Haydon

John Haydon has covered soccer for The Washington Times for two decades. He has reported on international soccer events in Germany, South Korea and Spain. John hails from Birmingham, England and has lived in the Washington D.C. region for over twenty years.  

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