Ukraine endure Euro 2016 misery as Fomenko's side suffer group stage exit
Ukraine were the first team to be eliminated from Euro 2016. Here's an assessment of their woeful campaign in France, and where the national team goes from here.
At a glance
Andriy Yarmolenko's description of the 2-0 defeat vs. Northern Ireland --"shameful" -- perfectly sums up Ukraine's Euro 2016 campaign as a whole
It is not an easy task to recall any positives in Ukraine's vastly disappointing and embarrassing Euro 2016 campaign, let alone pick the highlights.
All the good memories have to do with off-pitch moments, be it the national anthem passionately sung by Ukrainian fans during the encounter with Germany or the national flag with the signatures of Ukrainian soldiers in the players' dressing room.
As for action on the pitch, there's hope Ukraine's arguably most gifted player, Viktor Kovalenko, can use this tournament as a springboard. Uncapped in official international games before Euro 2016, he was not really expected to start for Mykhaylo Fomenko's side in the opening games against Germany and Northern Ireland.
He didn't shine in either match, but there is a great hope the Euros will become an essential learning experience in his rise to prominence. That was the case with Ukraine's current assistant coach and all-time great Andriy Shevchenko, whose international playing career did not get off to a flying start either.
Northern Ireland's 2-0 win sent shockwaves across Ukraine. It was not even the result that came as a major disappointment, but the team's toothless and disjointed performance as well as the postmatch comments from the coach, who blamed everyone and everything but himself and his assistants.
Before the tournament, there was hope among fans and pundits that Ukraine could reach the latter stages of the competition. It was hard to foresee they would be eliminated so soon. No doubt about it, the loss to Northern Ireland is Ukraine's worst ever match at a major international tournament.
Andriy Pyatov's display in the pre-Euro 2016 friendly wins against Romania (4-3) and Albania (3-1) was seen by many as a major cause for alarm, considering he was at fault for all the goals conceded in both games.
However, despite conceding two goals against Germany and Northern Ireland, the Shakhtar goalkeeper is the last man to blame for Ukraine's dismal campaign. He made a number of excellent saves to keep the score down in those matches, deserving top marks for his performances.
Prior to the Euros, there was a fear that the Ukraine national team were too reliant on their main stars --Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko -- and Fomenko did not have a Plan B if things did not go as planned.
The game against Michael O'Neill's side demonstrated precisely that. Ukraine were not flexible enough. In the wake of the defeat against Northern Ireland, Yarmolenko said: "The team just did not know how to carve such a packed defence open despite dominating possession."
It is worth pointing out that the winger was more talking about that issue as a certain pattern for Ukraine rather than referring specifically to the Northern Ireland match. In boxing, the most dangerous punch is not the most powerful one, but the one your opponent doesn't see arriving. At Euro 2016, all of Ukraine's punches were seen from afar, which led to a logical conclusion -- an early knockout.
Alex Sereda is ESPN FC's Ukraine blogger for Euro 2016. Twitter: @alex_sereda8