Ukraine v Northern Ireland, Thursday June 16
Lyon, Live on ITV, 5pm
Ukraine and Northern Ireland will need to bounce back from losses in their opening matches in Group C and both sides will be looking towards this game on Thursday afternoon (5pm, on ITV) as their best opportunity to pick up three points in the group stages.
Ukraine – the story so far
Ukraine went down 2-0 to World Champions in their first match, but they will have taken a great deal of heart from the extent to which they troubled the German defence throughout the game. During the match they had 7 shots on the German goal, 3 of which were on target and they were only denied a certain equaliser by Jerome Boateng’s miraculous goal line clearance.
Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko will be key players for Mykhailo Fomenko’s side against Northern Ireland, both players had excellent games against the Germans. Ukraine will hope that they can cause the Norn Iron defence plenty of problems, but defensively they need to be aware of the threat Northern Ireland will provide on the counter attack. Against Germany they did look extremely compact and composed and only conceded the second goal in injury time when they committed men forward and left themselves open to the counter attack.
Northern Ireland – the story so far
Despite coming into their game against Poland on the back of a 15-month unbeaten run, Northern Ireland’s first ever match at the European Championships ended in defeat, as Arkadiusz Milik’s second half goal consigned them to a 0-1 defeat. Michael O’Neill approached the game by overloading the Irish midfield, but this left striker Kyle Lafferty isolated upfront and the midfield weren’t able to get up in support of him.
It took Northern Ireland until the final 15 minutes to have their first shot and throughout the game they weren’t able to muster a single shot on target. O’Neill might be tempted to start this game with a second striker as he knows that realistically this is Northern Ireland’s best chance of taking anything from Group C. Certainly the final group match against Germany won’t be viewed by many as a banker! Ireland will need to provide more of an attacking threat, and this should result in the game being a brisk an open affair – much more reminiscent of their qualification games in the last year or so. If N. Ireland can approach the game with that mentality then they are definitely capable of taking something from the game.
You can expect to see Ukraine dominate possession and have the bulk of the chances in the game, but this time round Northern Ireland will surely carry a far greater attacking threat themselves if they are to take anything from the match, and progress further in the competition. The game could be open and we should hopefully see a few goals.
- Both teams to score @
- Ukraine to win and 3 or 4 total goals in the match @
- Over 3.5 goals in the game @
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