The man is class. Even the wackiest scriptwriter in the darkest depths of seedy Hollywood, after smoking some of the strangest substances of mind-altering dimensions could not, without becoming the immediate recipient of hysterical laughter, conceived of such a scenario. To the footballing fandom of this planet, one man gave, and, it would appear, continues to give, the small nation of Ukraine a discernible identity. To many, Andriy Shevchenko is Ukraine. Thus, for him to star in such a lead role, in such a role of fantastic and unrelenting joy, is one of the most galvanizing and uplifting stories of this Championship.
For the past two seasons, Dynamo Kiev have, perhaps a tad begrudgingly, harboured this genius only for the communal, shared belief that, once 2012 rolled round, it would feel distinctly abnormal if the most forthright avatar of Ukraine was absent from its most glorious moment. Sheva would play. Such a phenomenon has been, relentlessly, the topic of mass discussion amongst the nations footballing fraternity. Some see, currently, a Ukrainian side splintered and somehow reduced by the continued prominence of aging stars such as Shevchenko, Voronin, and Tymoschuk. It has often been stated that, in their controversial preparations for their home tournament, Ukraine have, through this prism of unwavering loyalty, restricted the growth and progress of bright young players such as Yarmolenko. On its most defining night, however, the Old Warhorse would, once again, be the saviour.
Blessed with an innate and rarely replicated sense of goal, a footballing brain of incomprehensible talent, and an alertness, Andriy Shevchenko was always a legend. In his days at AC Milan, the feisty and relentless Ukrainian made the art of goal-scoring look as easy as pulling on ones socks in the morning. The man was born to play, to score, to create and write drama. On this most illustrious of nights, a tired and maligned Shevchenko saved his absolute best, most epic form of drama for the most phenomenal moments.
In the embers of deficit, Ukraine lurked. Zlatan had done his customary damage. And so, as it has done out of perpetuity for nearly two decades, this obscure yet no-less talented football nation called upon Andriy. In its most ferocious hour of sporting need, Ukraine begged, one last time, for Andriy to help. In the throes of potential disappointment and gloom, Ukraine prayed, once more, for Andriy to help. The stuff of Greek legend, Shevchenko, as he has routinely done in his most ambassadorial career, answered each and every prayer.
The ball was whipped with a verve and swagger into the zone where once Shevchenko earned millions. His eyes glistened in eagerness. His face contorted in concentration. His brain ticked. Rolling back the years, Andriy Shevchenko re-enacted a moment from his scrapbook. From years gone by, this goalscoring demigod returned, endowed, once more, with blistering pace and an unrivaled nose for goal. The movement was that of a robot trained and taught to do only one thing: score! Ghosting in with glee abandon, Andriy rose with all of his might to plant a bullet header as far and as deep into the Kiev net as is possible. Utter pandemonium ensued in what will, forevermore, be known as The Andriy Shevchenko Stadium. He had done it.
As if his status as an absolute icon, a defiant legend, a resurgent inspiration was not expedited merely by presence on the pitch, Andriy had scored. What he had planned next was just simply so stunning that it gobsmacked, simultaneously, a continent. Peeling away at the front post just moments later from a corner, Shevchenko altruistically threw his entire body at the ball, at the cause of the Ukrainian people. With another of those bruising trademark headers, Shevchenko, quite mesmeric ally, fired his country into the lead!
Purely and simply, the city of Kiev came unstuck in unbridled celebration and utopia. Purely and simply, such scenarios are rarely experienced outside of dreams. Purely and simply, Andriy Shevchenko had, once again, lifted, upon his broad shoulders, his entire nation into a position of visibility.