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Ukraine will be hoping to take their qualifying form into Euro 2020
Ukraine will be hoping to take their qualifying form into Euro 2020

If this tournament had taken place last summer, Ukraine may have been considered one of the dark horses to make the latter stages.

Results have been a little mixed since then and heavy defeats at Switzerland and Spain — along with disappointing draws against Kazakhstan and Bahrain — have limited expectations.

But they will be looking for a better showing than previous efforts and there is finally scope to make real strides under the stewardship of legendary former striker Andriy Shevchenko.

Background

Ukraine were joint hosts of Euro 2012 but failed to get out of their group — and things did not get much better when they lost every game four years later.

Their European Championship record as an independent nation needs to improve rapidly. 

But with a stronger squad than they have had in the past and some very talented players, those in the camp will fancy their chances of progressing beyond the group stage. 

How they qualified

The manner in which Shevchenko guided his country to Euro 2020 will have boosted confidence.

They topped a group containing reigning champions Portugal, beating them 2-1 in October 2019.

In fact, they did not lose a single game. Ukraine won six and picked up two draws in eight outings, conceding just four goals across the entire campaign.

Goals were rather difficult to come by, with just 17 scored in total. Alongside Croatia, that was the joint-lowest total of any group winner.

Top scorer Roman Yaremchuk netted four, while Ruslan Malinovskyi and Viktor Tsyhankov both managed three. 

To put it simply, Ukraine’s defensive capabilities will provide the foundation for their challenge.

The line-up

Oleksandr Zinchenko will play a more advanced role at Euro 2020
Oleksandr Zinchenko will play a more advanced role at Euro 2020

Shevchenko’s tactical style is perhaps not as defined as some other coaches on show at Euro 2020.

Since taking over the role five years ago, he has used no fewer than six different formations but 4-3-3 became his favoured system during qualification.

The aim is to stay compact and spring into action to take chances when they arise. 

Atalanta midfielder Malinovskyi, 28, plays a key role in getting forward from deep and creating chances for team-mates, as highlighted by his performances in qualifying.

He is joined in midfield by Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko, who is a converted winger at full-back under Pep Guardiola, but his importance to the team is greater for Ukraine. 

Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko provide width alongside Yaremchuk in attack.

Predicted line-up: Pyatov; Tymchyk, Kryvtsov, Matviyenko, Mykolenko; Zinchenko, Stepanenko, Malinovskyi; Yaremchuk, Yarmolenko, Konoplyanka.

Star man: Ruslan Malinovskyi

Ukraine have a lot of quality in midfield but Malinovskyi makes them tick more than anyone.

He is used to playing in a far more expansive Atalanta team, where he registered 12 assists in 2020-21. 

But if Ukraine are to improve in attack, the first thing they must do is find a way to maximise his ability.

If they can supply him the ball, he will have a good chance of breaking down both Austria and North Macedonia, which are surely the matches Shevchenko will be targeting for victory.

Ruslan Malinovskyi is at his most dangerous just outside the opposition box
Ruslan Malinovskyi is at his most dangerous just outside the opposition box

Up-and-comer: Vitaliy Mykolenko

Dynamo Kyiv left-back Vitaliy Mykolenko, 22, is certainly one to watch and a good summer could see him become a transfer target for a number of clubs.

He is adept defensively and is used to being put under more pressure for his country than while playing for the Ukrainian champions.

He rarely attempts dribbles for the national team, which proves how little he ventures forward and out of position, but is adept at stopping attacks and acting as a defensive shield on the left flank.

The boss: Andriy Shevchenko

Shevchenko, 44, is much more than just a coach for Ukraine — he is their greatest player ever and a former politician to boot. 

Best known for his time at AC Milan, where he won the Ballon d’Or in 2004, he turned to the dugout in 2016.

Having failed to qualify for the World Cup in Russia, his hero status came under pressure. 

But the manner in which Ukraine booked their place at Euro 2020 makes them a good shout to reach the knockout phase. 

All information correct as of midday, June 3, 2021

Tags

UkraineEuropean Championship

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