(So to Group 6. Andorra and Kazakhstan will not feature here. Andorra belong in a preliminary stage, as discussed earlier. And Kazakhstan are better served keeping Australia company. Belarus will return as a more dangerous dark horse in qualification for Brazil 2014.)
Ukraine are two points behind Croatia, but have a game in hand and finish their campaign in Andorra. Pre-Capello conventional wisdom would have pointed to an already qualified England getting turned over in Dnepropetrovsk in October. An England win will not be the surprise it once would have been. Ukraine will probably have to rely on the Kazaks keeping the Croats quiet in Astana on October 14. Goal difference favours Ukraine.
Ukraine were the deeply disappointing dark horses of the last World Cup. Group results suggest Ukraine have regressed. Would you trust a Shevchenko retread for a South African safari?
One could, however, argue the recent success of Ukraine's club sides could provide the platform for a resurgence. Shakhtar Donetsk were worthy winners of the last UEFA Cup. Unfortunately for Ukraine, Fernandinho, Jadson, Ilsinho, Luiz Adriano, Willan, and Leonardo don't have blue and gold passports.
Youth offers a more promising solution. Ukraine were deserved winners of the European U19 championships. Is now the time to introduce the kids?
Kryvtsov and Partsvaniya are imposing central defenders. Kyrylo Petrov is a rare defensive midfield talent. But Ukraine's problems are not defensive. Only 6 goals have been conceded in qualifying. And if the enormous transfer fees paid by Barcelona and Bayern for Chigrinsky and Tymoschuk, respectively, are any indication, Ukraine already possess two of the better central defenders and defensive midfielders in Europe.
Things may get more interesting for England and Ukraine if Shevchenko and Voronin look over and see Garmash and Korkishko warming on the touchline.