Ukraine fans were ecstatic, celebrating late into Monday night after veteran striker Andrei Shevchenko handed the Euro 2012 co-hosts a 2-1 victory over Sweden, placing the team at the top of Group D after England and France drew 1-1.
AFP - Thousands of ecstatic Ukrainians yelled, sobbed, danced and jumped for joy into the early hours of Tuesday in Kiev after the co-hosts beat Sweden in their opening football match of Euro 2012.
Ukraine's veteran striker Andrei Shevchenko was the hero of the hour and a half after scoring both their goals in the 2-1 victory.
The win puts Ukraine top their table after the other group match between France and England ended in a 1-1 draw.
"We won!" shouted one young fan, throwing himself into his father's arms as the referee blew the final whistle on Monday evening. He was part of the euphoric crowd gathered in a special pedestrian supporters' zone in central Kiev equipped with giant TV screens.
Many joyously waved the blue and yellow national flag while others leapt into the air, almost mindless of the open beer bottles they were holding.
In nearby streets car horns sounded incessantly, with more flags flying from open windows.
Even the numerous police officers deployed in the fanzone couldn't hide their happiness at the result, which throws wide open one of the toughest groups in the competition which Ukraine is co-hosting with Poland.
Ukraine's politicians were swift to share in the uplifted national mood.
President Viktor Yanukovych, who atended the match in Kiev, congratulated the national side on their "brilliant victory," local media reported.
"Yes, we did it!" former foreign minister Arseni Yatsenyuk wrote on his Facebook account.
Amongst the regular fans the mood was one of surprise as well as elation.
"To tell the truth, I wasn't really expecting that, after their last unimpressive matches," said Roman Chenchik, who put the success down to the home support which the Ukraine side can benefit from as tournament hosts.
"Even so we do have some good players and a top coach," Oleg Blokhin, he added.
The victory was all the more sweet as Swedish captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic had put his side ahead early in the second half before Shevchenko's brace secured all three points for Ukraine.
"After the Swedes scored the first goal I was worried, But after we all shouted 'Ukraine' it all changed," recalled Roman, looking forward to further victories over France and England,
The disappointed Swedish fans were hard to find after the match, despite the fact that thousands were in the stadium.
"I'm stressed out because we now have to win the two remaining games if we are going to make it through to the quarter finals," bemoaned 25-year-old Eddie Svenssnon, one of the very few of his countrymen left huddled around a bar in the small Swedish corner of the fanzone.
"The Ukrainians were confident in themselves," he added.