England come into this game on the back of a memorable Wembley win against Germany. Much had been made of the clash with the winner of that looking to have a dream passage through to the final, but there are three teams who will have very different ideas and they meet one of those sides here. The Ukraine had a memorable win themselves as they scored with the last kick of the game in extra time against 10 men Sweden who had Marcus Danielson sent off in the first half on extra time, in doing so they managed to avoid a nervy penalty shoot out and progress to their first ever major international tournament quarter final. England are the overwhelmingly strong favourites and on form that looks fair, but bigger shocks have happened at tournaments such as this.
In their 4 games played at this tournament, Ukraine have scored 6 goals, conceded 6 goals, had 44 shots with 18 on target, have had an average possession of 49.25%, have been given 4 yellow cards, no red cards and taken 12 corners.
In their 4 games England have scored 4 goals, conceded no goals, had 27 shots with 10 on target, have had an average possession of 53%, have been given 4 yellow cards, no red cards and taken 16 corners.
The referee for this game is Felix Brych (Germany), who this season has taken charge of 36 games, handing out 111 yellow cards and 6 red cards, for an average of 3.08 yellow cards per game and 0.17 red cards per game. In his career to date he has refereed 326 games, awarding 1199 yellow cards and 73 red cards, an average of 3.68 yellow cards per game and 0.22 red cards per game.
The bookmakers (All prices taken from Skybet) have England as the 1/6 favourites to progress from this tie with Ukraine at 7/2. Gareth Southgate’s men are 2/5 to see of Ukraine in regular time, with a draw at the end of 90 minutes being 10/3, and Ukraine to spring a surprise and win inside 90 minutes is 15/2.
When Gareth Southgate’s team selection for the last 16 game against Germany hit the press and social media, there would have been plenty of eye brows raised at a team that had 5 defenders and 2 holding midfield players. Southgate made it abundantly clear with that selection that his plan was to be solid defensively, fast to counter, and wait for an opportunity which he hoped would present itself to his team. A risky approach and he may have feared that their opportunity had passed them by when captain Harry Kane let a great chance slip out of reach just before half time, but his approach was rewarded when on the 75 minute mark, Luke Shaw sent a low cross into the box that was met by Raheem Sterling who was left with one of the easiest finishes of his career, and he made no mistake to put England 1-0 up. Sterling nearly went from hero to zero when he sloppily gave away possession in midfield and in the blink of an eye Thomas Muller was bearing down on the England goal with just Jordan Pickford to beat, but his shot went just wide. Then 5 minutes later the icing on the cake arrived as Jack Grealish put in a cross that was headed home by Harry Kane, and just like that the England captain who had had a frustrating tournament from a personal point of view had his goal, and England had a famous win.
Whatever you think of Southgate’s style of play or team selections, he set up a team to get a result and they did just that, but now his young lions face an all together different type of challenge, which is that surely now anything but reaching the final back at Wembley stadium would have to be considered a bitterly disappointing end to such a promising tournament. If England are to fail to reach the final I don’t see it happening in this game. The Ukraine will be delighted with their win over Sweden and will no doubt turn up full of passion and commitment as they always do, but I feel they have had their limitations exposed multiple times already this tournament, and this will be their last game here.
I feel we may need a slightly different approach from England in this game. Southgate’s team selection in the last game worked because he knew the Germans would look to get forward at every opportunity and take the game to England. I don’t see the Ukraine doing that here, and feel they will be compact and happy to sacrifice possession around the half way line if it means they have a few extra bodies defensively. I feel this is the type of game where you want players like Grealish, Foden and Sancho to be on the ball around the box. I can see England keeping their opponents camped in their own half for long periods as they enjoy 65+ percent of possession, but with how deep the Ukraine will sit the pace of players like Sterling and Rashford could count for very little as they have a wall in front of them. I would not be surprised to see at least two of Grealish, Foden or Sancho start the game, as the Ukranian defence will be a tight lock that England will need to be neat and smart if they are to pick. Should they not manage to do it that way then you have the pacey players like Sterling and Rashford to come off the bench late on and run against tired legs. Whilst Ukraine could frustrate England to start the game, to me it is only a matter of time before England break them down, and as England have already proved at this tournament by not conceding a single goal, they are not the type of team that you want to be chasing the game against. I see England getting over the line by a relatively comfortable 3-0 score line, with creativity on the edge of the box what is needed over raw attacking speed.
The best bets in this game are
England to win 3-0 – 8/1 Skybet
England to score 2+ goals, 5+ England corners and 20+ Ukrainian booking points – 3/1
Oleksandr Zinchenko to be carded – 6/1 Skybet