We are in the lobby of the Savoia Hotel in Genoa, Italy. We are a few hours ahead of the friendly match between the Azzurri and Ukraine (ended with a 1-1 draw) and we’re waiting to meet Shakhtar Donetsk’s central midfielder Taras Stepanenko. When he meets us in the baroque hall of the hotel – near Genoa’s city center, not so far away from Wyscout’s headquarters in Chiavari – he welcomes us with a smile. We had a nice chat with him, talking about stats, video and the privilege to be coached by Andriy Shevchenko. Here’s what he told us.
Hi Taras, it’s a pleasure to have a chat with you. Can you please tell us how does it fell for a footballer to play for his own country – in your case representing Ukraine – and also how’s to be coached by a champion like Andriy Shevchenko?
For me, it’s an honor and pride to play for my national team and I’m very lucky, as I’ve been playing for Ukraine in the last 7 or 8 years. And every time I want to improve myself, to improve our goals and to achieve all of them. I believe it’s important to have goals in a sports career and mine is to play in the European Championship and the World Cup. And now that we have Shevchenko as coach of the national team, he has improved our level and our game. We play more cohesively, we play better and we have better results.
Speaking about goals, Nations League first and then Euro 2020?
Yes, of course, we want to win our group in this stage of the Nations League tournament, and then think about qualifying for the next European Championship in 2020.
As Italians, we know ‘Sheva’ as a footballer, especially because of his many years in Italy with AC Milan. Can you tell us something about his as a coach? Which kind of coach is he?
He is a young coach but he tries to pass his experience as a footballer player down to us. And he’s very ambitious. Of course, he has won a lot of trophies in his career and he tries to help us achieve our goals. I’m sure in the future we will be proud of him. It’s also important to have a great staff, with people like Mauro Tassotti and Andrea Maldera, that spent a lot of time working at big clubs. They have a lot of experience and they can help us in improving our game.
For footballers, technology has become more and more important year after year. Do you love to watch your clips after a game or study your opponents before playing against them?
Of course, today technology is so important. You can have all the information about your opponents, how he plays and how his team plays. And that’s why I watch videos all the time, and not only about my opponents but also about players in my same position. That’s why I use Wyscout.
So do you also watch other footballers to ‘steal’ them some moves or some tricks?
Yes, but also for tactic reasons. For example, we have different tactics in Shakhtar and in the national team. In fact, when I come to Ukraine we play with 4-3-3 and I play in the central position, while on Shakhtar we play with two midfielders in line. That’s why I always watch other players to get some inspirations, people like Jorginho and Kanté, who are the best players in the world in this position right now. I watch them to improve myself.
Do you like to keep an eye on your stats, checking how many kilometers you have run, how many defensive duels you have won?
Yes, I believe it’s very important to have all the stats about the match you have played. I watch them because I want to know how I played the game because I want to improve every time. For a footballer in my position is important to have stats about tackles, interceptions, duels and so on. Also knowing my stats when I have to play forward. That’s how much Wyscout helps me.