Ukraine captain Anatoliy Tymoshchuk says his side are ready to fight to cause an upset against Germany on Sunday.
The world champions begin their Euro 2016 campaign against Mykhailo Fomenko’s side at Stade Pierre Mauroy, looking to prolong an unbeaten run which stretches back over their last five encounters.
Tymoshchuk, who spent four years with Bundesliga champions Bayern Munich, is well aware of the quality within the Germany squad but is convinced that his own side have developed enough in recent years to pose a true threat.
“We’ve analysed Germany, we know we’re playing the world champions and we’ve had some good preparation,” he said on Friday.
“The opening game is very important. It will be difficult to achieve a good result, we’ve seen they’re in very good shape. But we have to concentrate on our own style. Everyone is prepared to fight.
“Ukraine are more experienced and are stronger now. Our confidence grew with every match in 2012. That’s why I think we’re stronger than we were then.
“Germany, as world champions, are favourites. But every match is difficult. We’ve got maybe one of the strongest groups, these are top teams. So I’m looking forward to some very interesting football.
“They play more technical football now, fast football. We’re used to seeing the German powerhouse, but now they have new, young players. They really deserved to win the World Cup and that’s why they’re favourites in our group.
“I have a good relationship with Thomas Muller, Manuel Neuer, Mario Gotze – many players I knew at Bayern. But I’m preparing like all the other players for the match. Every person must be a leader and take up the responsibility on and off the pitch.”
Head coach Fomenko is keen to produce a strong campaign in France in order to lift the morale of supporters affected by the conflict within the country during the last two years.
“The situation in Ukraine is not a good one, and it has a certain influence,” he said. “Football is no exception, it does have an influence on that.
“But I hope our players understand this matter and that they want to bring some joy to the people in our home country.”