A victory for the Ukraine will secure the co-hosts a surprise place in the Euro 2012 quarter-finals.
Euphoria was the word on everyone’s lips in Ukraine on Monday when Andrey Shevchenko – the golden boy of Ukrainian football – nodded home two goals against Sweden in Kiev to seal a 2-1 win that sent them top of Group D.
The sense of excitement was palpable and fuelled a growing belief that they can make it through to the knock-out stages.
The result certainly altered the aspect of Group D, with the prospect of the two group favourites, France and England, missing out on the quarter-finals now a very real one.
A first-ever win against France on Friday will ensure Ukraine’s spot in the next round, leaving England, Sweden and the French to battle it out for the other qualification place.
However, in a very obvious bid to drag his players – and the country – down to earth, coach Oleh Blokhin is keen for everyone to regain a sense of perspective ahead of Friday’s match.
After all, they are playing a France side who are unbeaten in 22 games and thumped the Ukraine 4-1 in their last meeting in 2011.
“It’s too early for euphoria! We’ve just won one match, and if we lose both our following games, we might as well wash that first win down the drain,” warned the 59-year-old.
“I had a serious discussion with the players after [the match against] Sweden.”
Meanwhile, France coach Laurent Blanc admits he was left frustrated after the 1-1 draw with England on Monday.
His side dominated possession and had the greater number of chances, but couldn’t find their way past a stubborn Three Lions rearguard.
He also admits the win for Ukraine has galvanised the host country and that could make things even tougher for Les Bleus.
“The country is in a state of euphoria,” he said of the co-hosts. “The people will be behind the team more than ever now.
“It’s going to be a hard game, there’s no doubt about it, but we will prepare ourselves in the same way we have planned.”
Coach Blokhin could opt to field a slightly more defensive line-up than the one that beat Sweden in Kiev on Monday, with Ruslan Rotan a contender to come in and bolster the midfield.
However, that would mean one of strikers Andrey Shevchenko or Andriy Voronin – both very impressive on Monday – dropping to the bench.
Shevchenko, at 35, would be the logical choice to take a rest, but following his heroics against Sweden it is unlikely he will be dropped.
For France, Rennes midfielder Yann M’Vila has fully recovered from an ankle injury and could come in at the expense of Alou Diarra.
That is expected to be the only change made by coach Blanc, though Hatem Ben Arfa and Marvin Martin and Olivier Giroud remain options from the bench.