Ukraine was always a force within the Soviet Union, and in the 1970s and 1980s Valeriy Lobanovskiy’s FC Dynamo Kyiv formed the backbone of the national side. Their pinnacle was reaching the 1988 UEFA European Championship final under Lobanovskiy and his revolutionary coaching methods brought on talents including Oleh Blokhin, Igor Belanov, Anatoliy Demyanenko, Volodymyr Bezsonov and Oleh Protasov. Lobanovskiy continued to coach until his death in 2002 and his statue stands outside the Dynamo stadium that now bears his name. Three of his pupils –Blokhin, Belanov and Andriy Shevchenko – were awarded the Ballon d’Or.
Ukraine has a footballing reputation that goes back to Soviet days but that is not the limit of their sporting prowess. Perhaps the most famous Ukrainian sportsman is Serhiy Bubka, comfortably the greatest pole vaulter of all time. ‘Man of Iron’ Borys Shakhlin earned seven Olympic golds, an impressive haul though fellow gymnast Larysa Latynina won nine. Other Olympic gold medallists include 1972 100m and 200m champion Valeriy Borzov, and four-times swimming title-winner Yana Klochkova. World heavyweight boxing champions Volodymyr and Vitaliy Klytschko also hail from Ukraine.