Ukraine boss Mykhaylo Fomenko will be more pleased than most to make the journey to France this summer.
Having been appointed to his post at the end of 2012, Fomenko saw his hopes of leading Ukraine to the World Cup in Brazil crushed by the French via the playoffs.
Their sole European Championship Finals appearance before now came in 2012 as co-hosts so Ukraine can rejoice in having earned this appearance the hard way via qualification.
That certainly was the case after a hellish start to their campaign saw Slovakia emerge from the opening game in Kiev with a priceless 1-0 win.
Worse news was to follow for Fomenko as Slovakia stunned Spain in their second game to leave his side facing a mountain to climb in order to achieve qualification, even at that early stage.
In a group propped up by three struggling teams, Ukraine had to focus their attention on chasing down Spain and Slovakia with little hope of assistance from Belarus, Luxembourg or Macedonia.
However, slender one-goal defeats home and away to European champions Spain helped consign Ukraine to third spot and, with it, the playoffs once more.
After being denied in the playoffs by France two years earlier, Ukraine were in determined mood when Slovenia arrived in November.
Dynamo Kiev’s Andriy Yarmolenko is the standout performer in this team and he showed just why by opening the scoring before he helped set up Dnipro striker Yevhen Seleznyov for a second goal that gave Fomenko’s team the cushion they desired.
The winning margin ought to have been more in the first leg and Ukraine were close to disaster in Maribor in the return game.
Bostjan Cesar gave Slovenia hope and they piled the pressure on, forcing Ukrainian goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov into some vital saves to maintain the slender advantage before Yarmolenko made sure of progress right at the death.
It was enough to send them to France but the second-leg performance also highlighted the shortcomings of this team. Four years ago they flattered to deceive on home soil and they have an unenviable task this time around in France.
World champions Germany are first up in Lille on June 12 for Ukraine. After that daunting start, Fomenko will fancy his chances in Lyon four days later against Euro first-timers Northern Ireland.
A fair return from their opening two games will send Ukraine into the final group game in Marseille with hopes alive, and there they face their Euro 2012 co-hosts Poland on June 21.
Both nations failed to meet expectations four summers ago but, with the expanded format this time around seeing 16 of the 24 competing nations advance to the knockouts, there are legitimate hopes for both to progress now.
In qualifying, Fomenko made the most of a settled line-up. Shakhtar Donetsk’s Pyatov starts in goal with Vyacheslav Shevchuk, Artem Fedetskiy, Yaroslav Rakitskiy and Yevhen Khacheridi highly likely to be in front of him.
With three of the likely back five playing their club football at Shakhtar, there is a sense of familiarity to the Ukrainian defensive operation.
Yarmolenko is the man who makes this team tick but he has an able assistant in the form of Sevilla’s Yevhen Konoplyanka, a pacey winger with a keen eye for goal who could be crucial to Ukraine’s hopes this summer.
Goalkeepers: Andriy Pyatov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Denys Boyko (Besiktas), Mykyta Shevchenko (Zorya)
Defenders: Artem Fedetskiy (Dnipro), Mykyta Kamenyuka (Zorya), Vyacheslav Shevchuk (Shakhtar Donetsk), Oleksandr Kucher (Shakhtar Donetsk), Yaroslav Rakytskyi (Shakhtar Donetsk), Yevhen Khacheridi (Dynamo Kiev)
Midfielders: Anatoliy Tymoschuk (Kairat Almaty), Oleksandr Karavaev (Zorya), Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kiev), Denys Garmash (Dynamo Kiev), Serhiy Sydorchuk (Dyamo Kiev), Serhiy Rybalka (Dynamo Kiev), Taras Stepanenko (Shakhtar Donetsk), Viktor Kovalenko (Shakhtar Donetsk), Ruslan Rotan (Dnipro), Yevhen Konoplyanka (Sevilla).
Forwards: Pylyp Budkovskyi (Zorya), Roman Zozulya (Dnipro), Yevhen Seleznyov (Shakhtar Donetsk)