Competition: UEFA Euro 2016
Fixture: Ukraine v Northern Ireland
Date: Thursday, June 16, 2016
Venue: Parc Olympique Lyonnais
Kick off time: 1800 hours GMT
These two sides have played each other a total of four times and it is Ukraine who can boast of having the better of their rivals on the night. The Ukrainians won two games while the other two were drawn. Their history is surely uneventful, however, with the passage of time these sides have improved leaps and bounds and hence you can expect this to be a pacey and spicy encounter.
Having lost each of their opening games, both these teams will have to give it their all. A loss for either can be devastating, possibly sending the loser home. The next game for either side is against World Champions, Germany which will certainly be a tough one and hence nothing can be left for that game.
Ukraine’s form L-W-W-W-W
After falling to a 2-0 loss to Germany in their opening match, Ukraine will have to get their act together soon. A loss in this game could prove to be quite disastrous for the men in yellow.
Many consider Ukraine as the underdogs in the group. Germany and Poland are widely expected to go through to the next round, however owing to the changes in rules, Ukraine should aim to be one of the teams who finish third and still go through.
Andriy Yarmolenko’s side should be able to push Northern Ireland aside with ease. Given that Norther Ireland’s full-backs are not the best in the league, Yarmolenko and Konoplyanka will enjoy their evening out against the two. If they play up to their potential they could make life tough for the Polish side in their final group stage match.
One of their main strengths is their defence. They have a solid defence which has a history of stifling teams with their compact shape and precision defensive line. It took two inch-perfect passes from the German side to break their defence. If they retain their shape in this game, we could see them holding onto a much needed clean sheet.
Northern Ireland’s form L-D-W-W-D
Many believe that Northern Ireland is the weakest of the teams in the group. When their team sheet is compared to the others in the group many would agree that they are not going to make it past the groups. This is their debut stint in the Euros and things only look brighter for the future. If they do not want to be considered as whipping-boys at the Euros they will have to play quality football.
They were quite easily beaten by the Polish side. The score line suggested a close game, but they were all over the place in more than half the game. They were unable to keep the possession while looked toothless in attack.
Things do not look too good for the Northern Irish side. Most of their players play in the Premier League, but as a team are not able to put in the shifts that are required to brush aside teams. This could now be called the United Kingdom syndrome?
Team News and Key Players:
Jonny Evans is one of the most experienced players in the line-up. The former Manchester United defender will have to be at his best in both defensive duties as well as player leader and influencer when on the pitch.
Striker Kyle Lafferty, scored seven goals during the qualifying stages. He remains to be one of the main threats to goal. His speed and height are tough to handle.
Yarmolenko comes in a major threat to defences. He smashed in six goals combined with two assists in the qualifying stages. His midfield partner, Yevhen Konoplyanka also is in fine form with three goals and four assists in the La Liga in the recently concluded season. These pacey wingers are certainly going to be a major threat and cause major havoc.
When you look at the battle that will possibly have a huge impact on the game could be the one between Lafferty and Yevhen Khacheridi. These two are brilliant at their jobs and hence the strong Irish forward will have to have to try real hard to outwit the superb centre-back.
We can safely expect Ukraine who have the physically stronger team- to dominate this match exactly like the Polish did against Norther Ireland. They will however have to put to bed the chances that they get unlike against Germany. A win for Ukraine is placed at 4/7 with Bet365. This seems to be the safer of the two bets.
William hill places a bet at 3/1 for the game to end in a stalemate while they have placed a win for Northern Ireland at 13/2.
When it comes to players who are expected to find the back of the net, Yarmolenko and Konoplyanka should be players who are at the top of that list.