Ukraine Euro 2020 preview – predictions, fixtures, squad, star
Ahead of this summer’s European Championship, Sports Mole is assessing the chances of a Ukrainian side that finished impressively ahead of Portugal and Serbia in qualifying.
After enduring a dismal campaign at Euro 2016 before failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, Ukraine hopes to bounce back with a strong performance at Euro 2020.
Ukraine have never made it past the group stage as an independent nation at the European Championships, setting the bar for their all-time record top scorer Andriy Shevchenko, who has led the national team since fall 2016, is relatively weak to beat.
Indeed, the Yellow and Blue failed to score a point or even to score a goal at Euro 2016, finishing last in their group as the relative minnows of Northern Ireland reached the knockout stages in their place.
After a very strong performance in qualifying, however, Shevchenko will feel confident of a much better comeback under his tutelage this time around.
Here, Sporty Taupe gives an overview of Ukraine’s chances at Euro 2020 this summer.
Ukraine qualified for Euro 2020 as the number one seed and were drawn alongside the Netherlands, Austria and North Macedonia in Group C.
With three teams advancing in four of the six groups, Ukraine should feel very confident of qualifying for the round of 16 at the European Championships for the first time in their history.
While the Netherlands will be the favorites to dominate the group, North Macedonia are the lowest ranked nation in the tournament, so if Shevchenko’s side can beat them and at least avoid defeat to the Austrians, that should be enough to see them qualify for the last 16.
June 13: Netherlands vs Ukraine (8 p.m., Johan cruyff Arena, Amsterdam)
June 17: Ukraine vs North Macedonia (2 p.m., National Arena, Bucharest)
June 21st: Ukraine vs Austria (5 p.m., National Arena, Bucharest)
HOW THEY ARE QUALIFIED
As briefly mentioned, Ukraine were extremely impressive in qualifying for Euro 2020, finishing ahead of Portugal and Serbia at the top of Group B.
The draws against these two rivals for the automatic qualification were accompanied by the victory of the other six matches of the group, which proved to be enough to finish with three points ahead of a Portuguese side that many observers naturally believe to be. strong candidates to keep their title after winning Euro 2016.
This is the first time that Ukraine has qualified directly for a European Championship, having automatically participated in Euro 2012 as a co-organizer, before beating Slovenia in the play-off to reach Euro 2016.
As such, there may be more pressure than usual on the national team to perform well in a major tournament, but as many nations have discovered in the past, doing business during qualifying and a tournament are indeed very different beasts.
Since the European Championship qualifiers ended over 18 months ago, Ukraine’s form has been rather poor, with Shevchenko’s side having lost six of their 14 appearances in that span.
However, that should be mitigated by three of those losses to Spain and Germany combined in Nations League A, with France, Poland and Switzerland being the other nations to defeat them.
Additionally, Ukraine are undefeated in six matches in 2021, with four straight 1-1 draws backed by comfortable wins – and much needed clean sheets – in their two warm-up friendlies against Northern Ireland and Cyprus. .
So it’s clear that the Yellows and Blues have a lot to work on, but they showed in qualifying for Euro 2020 that they have the ability to activate it when it really matters.
Goalkeepers: Georgiy bushchan (Dynamo Kiev), Andriy Pyatov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Anatolii Trubin (Chakhtar Donetsk)
Defenders: Edouard Sobol (Club Bruges), Illia Zabarnyi (Dynamo Kiev), Serhiy kryvtsov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Denys Popov (Dynamo Kiev), Oleksandr Tymchyk (Dynamo Kiev), Vitaliy Mykolenko (Dynamo Kiev), Oleksandr Karavaev (Dynamo Kiev), Mykola Matviyenko (Chakhtar Donetsk)
Midfielder : Serhiy sydortchuk (Dynamo Kiev), Ruslan Malinovskyi (Atalanta), Mykola Shaparenko (Dynamo Kiev), Marlos (Shakhtar Donetsk), Yevhen Makarenko (Kortrijk), Oleksandr Zinchenko (Manchester City), Viktor Tsygankov (Dynamo Kiev), Taras Stepanenko (Shakhtar Donetsk), Andriy Yarmolenko (West Ham United), Oleksandr Zoubkov (Ferencvaros), Heorhii Soudakov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Roman bezus (Ghent)
Forward: Roman Yaremchuk (Ghent), Artem Besedin (Dynamo Kiev), Artem Dovbyk (Dnipro-1)
STAR PLAYER – RUSLAN MALINOVSKYI
One of only eight Ukrainian team players currently plying their trade outside their home country, Ruslan Malinovskyi was one of the protagonists in Atalanta BC’s ascent to become a club in the Champions League in recent seasons.
Winner of the 2020-21 Serie A Best Assistant award with an impressive total of 12 during the league campaign, Malinovskyi has also scored eight league goals for Atalanta in two consecutive seasons, illustrating his ability to consistently deliver a Elite level production although not rated as a striker.
For Ukraine, the attacking midfielder scored three goals in their successful Euro 2020 qualifying campaign, before adding to his record in a 2-1 loss to Germany last year. .
Malinovskyi may not yet have reached the heights of club form for his country, but at 25, it surely won’t be long before a player with his shooting and passing caliber ignites under the yellow and blue jersey. .
DIRECTOR – ANDRIY SHEVCHENKO
One man who has certainly done this throughout his playing career is Andriy Shevchenko, who has scored a record 48 goals in 111 caps for Ukraine.
The former AC Milan forward helped his country reach the 2006 World Cup quarter-finals, scoring two goals in Germany that summer, before scoring a brace against Sweden to secure the first and only Ukraine’s victory at the European Championship as a host country in 2012.
After retiring that summer, Shevchenko pursued a career in politics, before initially joining Ukraine as deputy manager in February 2016. However, following the aforementioned disappointment of Euro 2016, Shevchenko replaced Mykhaylo Fomenko as manager and has remained in charge ever since.
Despite missing out on qualifying for the 2018 World Cup, Shevchenko’s win rate remains at an impressive 47% from his 45 games in charge so far. His already high stock at home was significantly boosted by the strong performance in Euro 2020 qualifying, but his legacy as a manager may ultimately rest on what ensues in the tournament itself.
EUROPEAN CHAMPIONSHIP RECORD
Best finish: Group stage (2012, 2016)
Since gaining independence and breaking away from the former Soviet Union in 1992, Ukraine’s greatest achievement has been to reach the quarter-finals of the 2006 World Cup, which is the only World Cup in which it qualified.
When it comes to the European Championship, however, the success has been much more limited. The Yellow and Blue automatically qualified as co-hosts in 2012, with their highlight of this tournament undoubtedly being Shevchenko’s lead over Sweden.
However, Euro 2016 turned out to be a total embarrassment after failing to score a point or even score a single goal, so they are hoping much better things will happen this summer.
An impressive qualifying campaign has helped Ukraine consolidate surprisingly as a top seed which has undoubtedly made life easier for them when it comes to their Euro 2020 squad.
As such, Shevchenko’s side should have enough to reach the last 16 for the first time in their history. However, unless they can propel the Netherlands to first place in Group C, a tough game will almost certainly await them in the round of 16. We think they lack a bit of quality to go further than the last 16.
VERDICT: Last 16