Ex-for­ward of the Ukrain­ian nation­al team — about the con­fronta­tion between Mar­seille and Shakhtar

Donet­sk Shakhtar com­plet­ed its par­tic­i­pa­tion in the Europa League in the cur­rent sea­son. The min­ers failed to get past French Mar­seille in the play­off round to reach the 1/8 finals. After a draw in Ham­burg, the Ukrain­ian cham­pi­ons lost at the Stade Orange Velo­drome with a score of 3:1. We dis­cussed the main moments of the match with Alexan­der Kosy­rin, a well-known for­mer strik­er of Donet­sk Met­al­lurg and Odessa Cher­nomorets.

See also: Mar­seille — Shakhtar. Video review of the match for Feb­ru­ary 22

— What expec­ta­tions did you have before the return game between Shakhtar and Mar­seille?

— We all remem­ber how the first game took place in Ham­burg, Ger­many. It was clear that the two teams had a chance to advance to the next round. The big dis­ad­van­tage for our team was the long off-sea­son and the lack of offi­cial match­es. The fight in Por­to took place in mid-Decem­ber, then a month of vaca­tion and a month of train­ing camp in Turkey. The only hope was for luck. The French club only rest­ed for a few days at Christ­mas and that was all. Mar­seille was in good shape, their sea­son is in full swing. This was their big plus.

“But at the same time, we know what tur­moil Mar­cel was in.” The win­less streak of sev­en match­es con­tin­ued, and the head coach was changed. Gen­naro Gat­tuso was fired and replaced by Jean-Louis Gasse. Could this help the orange-and-blacks?

— We all know how demand­ing Mar­seille fans are. They will tear any­one apart for their team. Yes, the streak with­out vic­to­ries looks some­what inex­plic­a­ble for Mar­seille. Still, this is a very strong team that has many titles. A change of coach usu­al­ly has a pos­i­tive effect on the team in the short term. The Donet­sk team were unlucky here. Usu­al­ly a new coach allows foot­ball play­ers to change some­thing in their psy­chol­o­gy. This lasts for a cou­ple of match­es. And then every­thing can come back if there is no qual­i­ty train­ing process.

Read also: Pusic: Foot­ball is a game that depends on mis­takes, so Mar­seille deserved this vic­to­ry

— The match in France start­ed well for Shakhtar – Sudakov con­fi­dent­ly con­vert­ed the penal­ty. Was the Ger­man ref­er­ee able to fig­ure out this episode?

— The home team’s defend­er caught Eguinal­do with his hip. The Brazil­ian fell… It was a dif­fi­cult episode, but the VAR ref­er­ee reviewed it. Sudakov was accu­rate from the point. But what hap­pened next… I have a guess. The hosts, of course, rushed to attack, but the Donet­sk team lacked game tone. It is clear that phys­i­cal­ly our play­ers are not yet 100% ready. And in order to advance fur­ther in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tions, you need to be pre­pared to the max­i­mum.

— Is Marseille’s return goal a mis­take only by Stepa­nenko?

- Yes, Taras made a mis­take in that episode. Our play­ers are so used to play­ing through the pass. Every­one makes mis­takes. The hosts took the ball and brought Aubameyang one on one with Riznyk into touch. The Gabonese real­izes such moments. In foot­ball, who­ev­er makes the least mis­takes wins.

Mar­seille — Shakhtar, pho­to — Get­ty Images

— Why didn’t the team coach­es make sub­sti­tu­tions dur­ing the break? Was there real­ly no need to change any­thing?

— In the first half, the foot­ball was approx­i­mate­ly equal. There weren’t any major fail­ures, so the head coach­es didn’t break any­thing. Although the sub-opti­mal form of Shakhtar’s play­ers was notice­able. We did not see the foot­ball that we saw from Shakhtar in the Cham­pi­ons League in the fall in the games with Mar­seille. Phys­i­cal readi­ness and game prac­tice — all this affect­ed the actions of the play­ers of the Ukrain­ian team. I think that if Shakhtar had played Mar­seille in the fall, our guys would have achieved two vic­to­ries.

— Shakhtar’s game plan attract­ed a lot of crit­i­cism. The impres­sion was that it was not clear how the team want­ed to achieve vic­to­ry…

— In the group stage of the Cham­pi­ons League, the Pit­men played through short pass­es, flank pass­es fol­lowed by pass­es into the penal­ty area. In the games with Mar­seille, our play­ers main­ly played long pass­es. I think this is due to the fact that the guys are not yet in good shape.

— Are the goals scored by the French a con­se­quence of the Pitmen’s mis­takes?

— Yes, let’s not for­get that Mar­seille is staffed with expe­ri­enced foot­ball play­ers, most­ly play­ers from their nation­al teams. They played at home, with crazy sup­port from their fans. And Shakhtar has been play­ing all inter­na­tion­al match­es away from home for two years now. It is very dif­fi­cult. There are no mir­a­cles in foot­ball.

Read also: Coach of Mar­cel Gasse: We are not going to stop at the achieved round

— Anoth­er com­plaint against Pusic is that he did not make a sub­sti­tu­tion until the 82nd minute of the match.

— Appar­ent­ly, there was no one to real­ly strength­en the game. We saw that it was rain­ing in Mar­seille, the field was soft. The play­ers are tired, but com­ing off the bench into such a bat­tle is still a test. In the mid­dle of the sec­ond half, with the score 1:1, changes had to be made, I agree with that.

— How do you like Sican’s per­for­mance in the return match and in gen­er­al in the con­fronta­tion with Mar­seille?

— Sikan is not suit­able for the Euro­pean lev­el. And Dynamo (Kyiv) has the same prob­lems. Although, as we see, if Ukrain­ian foot­ball play­ers find them­selves in a dif­fer­ent envi­ron­ment, they open up – I’m talk­ing about Tsy­gankov and Dovbik. Yes, they also need time to adapt. Per­haps Sikan will open up in a Euro­pean club. In Europe there is a com­plete­ly dif­fer­ent foot­ball with a dif­fer­ent inten­si­ty. Shakhtar are used to play­ing attack­ing foot­ball; the guys like to attack a lot. But in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tions there are strong oppo­nents. I would­n’t scold them too much. I repeat, Shakhtar cur­rent­ly lacks com­pet­i­tive tone. While it’s dif­fi­cult for them, in March we will still have spring fields, but by April the Donet­sk team will warm up and be able to show their class.

- But won’t it be too late in April?

- Maybe. But this is the real­i­ty. And return­ing to the game with Mar­seille, I remem­ber how much more pow­er­ful the play­ers of the French team are than our play­ers. The com­peti­tors are pumped up, run great, and bold­ly enter into sin­gle com­bat. On the good side, they know per­fect­ly well how to achieve suc­cess. If we want to com­pete with the best teams in Euro­pean tour­na­ments, we need to acquire play­ers of this cal­iber.

— Which Shakhtar play­ers did you like?

— Brazil­ian Eguinal­do. In two match­es he was the best foot­ball play­er for the min­ers. While he had the strength, he played well on the wing, earned a penal­ty, and scored a goal in Ham­burg.

— How would you eval­u­ate the work of Mari­no Pusic?

— It is clear that after the defeats there are ques­tions for the head coach. The game needs to be con­trolled. Not long ago he was assis­tant coach at Feyeno­ord. This is also an expe­ri­ence for him. It is clear that he delayed mak­ing sub­sti­tu­tions, and he was unable to take advan­tage of Marseille’s prob­lems.

— Why didn’t Shakhtar’s coach replace the Brazil­ian Kevin, who was bought for 15 mil­lion euros?

- Only Pusic knows this. I know from his­to­ry that Shakhtar doesn’t just buy any­one. If they paid 15 mil­lion for Kevin, then in a year or two he will cost 40 mil­lion euros. It is clear that the young guy is not quite ready for such bat­tles. He is going through an adap­ta­tion process.

Read also: Ukraine may lose 18th place in the UEFA coef­fi­cients table and has def­i­nite­ly lost one Euro­pean Cup tick­et

— Today it is already clear that the lev­el of Ukrain­ian foot­ball is falling and the Euro­pean Cups are proof of this. Ukraine is now in 18th place in the coef­fi­cient table and in the sum­mer of 2025 we will have only 4 teams in Euro­pean com­pe­ti­tion and only one in the Cham­pi­ons League. All teams will need to go through sev­er­al rounds of qual­i­fy­ing to qual­i­fy for the group stage. Is every­thing real­ly that bad here?

— I think that the lev­el of Ukrain­ian foot­ball is even worse than you described it. Only Shakhtar (Donet­sk) holds a cer­tain lev­el. We have been in a full-scale war for two years, peo­ple are dying. As for foot­ball, no qual­i­ty for­eign play­ers are com­ing to us, the sta­di­ums are emp­ty, there is no excite­ment. As for our rat­ing, we need to take a step back in order to then take two steps for­ward. I believe that in the near future we will see two or three of our teams in the Cham­pi­ons League.