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Ukraine 1-0 Northern Ireland - Thursday 3rd of June, 2021


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Ukraine were impressive against Northern Ireland in their penultimate friendly match before the kick-off against the Netherlands at Euro 2020. After drawing their last 4 international games 1-1, against France, Finland, Kazakhstan and Bahrain, Ukraine finally notched a win. The match was played in the Dnipro Arena stadium, in the City of Dnipro in central Ukraine. 15,000 fans were allowed to attend the match and they made their voices heard. Northern Ireland, who narrowly failed to make the Euros after they lost 2-1 to Slovakia in their Euro 2020 qualifying play-off match, arrived in Dnipro, with their best possible squad.

Ukraine attacked from the start, left wing revelation Zubkov used his pace and strength to get the better of Ballard, as he then squared the ball to Yaremchuk in the Northern Ireland penalty area. Yaremchuk shot at goal, but his effort was excellently saved by Peacock-Farrell, who managed to push the ball out for a corner. From the resulting corner, the ball found its way to Karavayev down the right flank, his cross found Zubkov, who had peeled away from the Northern Irish defenders and he headed home to score his first ever international goal for Ukraine. Zubkov broke past the Northern Irish defence once more on 21 minutes and he again squared the ball to Yaremchuk, only for Peacock-Farrell to again brilliantly block Yaremchuk's close range effort on goal. Moments later, Yaremchuk had another effort at goal, this time he shot from outside the area, only to see his shot go narrowly past the far post. On the half-hour mark, Yarmolenko played a one two with Yaremchuk, before the West Ham man's left footed shot from outside the area flew narrowly past the far post. Northern Ireland had their first chance of the match in the 36th minute, as Paddy McNair's crossed delivery from a free-kick, was powerfully headed goalwards by Ciaron Brown, but the Ukrainian keeper George Buschan, produced an excellent palmed reflex save, to prevent Northern Ireland from equalising. 

Ukraine were less offensive at the start of the second half and a quarter of an hour into the half, Ali McCann had a half chance, as his near post header from Stuart Dallas's cross, flew just wide of the target. With just over a quarter of an hour of the match to go, Ukrainian substitute Sudakov found space down the left wing, he then dribbled past Ballard and crossed for Yarmolenko in the area. Yarmolenko controlled the ball with his back to goal and then spun and shot at goal, but again Peacock-Farrell was there to palm away his powerful effort. The rebound then fell to Sudakov, who's blasted effort went into the side netting. In the 86th minute Yarmolenko cut inside onto his left foot in the area, only to produce a cross shot, which Biesiedin tried to poke home, but Peacock-Farrell once again produced a vital save. In the last minute of normal time, Artem Biesiedin actually put the ball in the net, but his effort was contentiously ruled to be just offside. All in all it was a pretty dominant display by Ukraine and they will want more of the same in their next friendly match against Cyprus, just before they face the Netherlands at the Euros. 

Early goal sees off Northern Ireland | Ukraine 1-0 Northern Ireland | Highlights - YouTube

For Ukraine the starting line-up against Northern Ireland, is likely going to be the starting line-up they use against the Netherlands, except that Zinchenko will of course replace Shaparenko in midfield and Stepanenko will probably replace Sydorchuk in the defensive midfield position. The Ukrainian squad that Shevchenko selected for the Euros looks strong and seems to have good depth. They were deprived of several players due to injuries, most notably the experienced Konoplyanka(ex-Seville and ex-Schalke player) of Shakhtar Donetsk and  midfielder Kovalenko of Atalanta. Both were important players, but fortunately for Ukraine, the midfield area is a position where they have a lot of depth.

Ukraine seem to be currently blessed with several very good goalkeepers. George Buschan has emerged as Ukraine's first choice keeper as he has displaced the experienced Pyatov as Shevcheko's favourite for that position. The third choice keeper is the talented teenager Anatoliy Trubin of Shakhtar Donetsk. Such is the competition they have in the keeper position, that young talented Real Madrid reserve keeper Andriy Lunin was dropped from the squad.

Ukraine's central defence position has often been a weakness in the past. While Matviyenko has been Ukraine's undisputed best central defender, finding a top quality defender to partner him has been a challenge. But over the last year, 18 year old talent Illya Zabarnyi has emerged as Shevchenko's first choice to partner Matviyenko in Ukraine's defence. Dynamo Kyiv's Zabarnyi has had a standout debut season at both club level and the national team, with clubs such as Chelsea strongly linked to him. At left back, Dynamo Kyiv's Mykolenko is the undisputed starter and he is another talented youngster who is being chased by bigger European clubs. He has strength, pace and attacks at any opportunity down the left flank. Club Brugge's Sobol is Ukraine's reserve left back. Karavayev of Dynamo Kyiv has made the right back spot his own. His dangerous crosses have helped Ukraine a lot in recent matches.

Midfield is arguably Ukraine's strongest position. The defensive midfield position will be battled out between Stepanenko and Sydorchuk. Both are aggressive and combative experienced midfielders who like to have a long range pop at goal every now and then. Sydorchuk has started for Ukraine in Ukraine's recent games. However Stepanenko was first choice for Ukraine at Euro 2016 and he has almost twice as many caps for Ukraine than Sydorchuk has. Both have great stamina and ball winning ability, whomever Shevchenko decides to start. Anderlecht's Makarenko is the third choice defensive midfielder.

In the more creative central midfield positions, Zinchenko and Malinovskyi are almost certain starters. Zinchenko who is fresh from winning the Premier League trophy with Man City whilst playing as a regular at left back, will be a key player for Ukraine in central midfield. Playing in a creative midfield position is Zinchenko's best position and he will be pulling the strings from midfield. Malinovskyi has had another standout season in Serie A at Atalanta. He created the most assists in Serie A last season and he was voted the most valuable Serie A player for May 2021. His creativity and his powerful shooting ability is going to be vital for Ukraine at the Euros. Other reserve options in the creative midfield positions include the highly talented Dynamo Kyiv youngster Shaparenko and the more experienced alternatives such as Marlos and Bezus. As for positions on the wings, it will be battled out between Yarmolenko, Tsyhankov and the emerging revelation Zubkov. Yarmolenko will battle it out on the right wing Dynamo Kyiv's talented 23 year old winger Tsyhankov. Yarmolenko's experience will probably give him the edge in terms of starting for Ukraine. On the left wing, Zubkov is likely to start as the 24 year old's speed and energy has been impressive for Ukraine over the last year. Despite winning the Hungarian league with Ferencvaros last season, it is unlikely that he will be at the club much longer, as bigger clubs come sniffing after him. 18 year old Sudakov is another option on the left wing, although he can also play in central midfield.

In attack, Shevchenko selected 3 strikers. Yaremchuk, Besyedin and Dovbyk. One of whom will fill the centre forward role. Yaremchuk is most likely to start in that position for Ukraine, as he already has 7 goals for Ukraine since making his debut in late 2018. Yaremchuk has impressed for Gent in Belgium, where he scored 17 league goals for them this season just finished. Besyedin and Dovbyk are the back-up centre forwards. Supriaha, the young Dynamo Kyiv forward and Moraes of Shakhtar Donetsk, were both surprisingly dropped from Shevchenko's Ukraine squad for the Euros.

All in all, Ukraine look like they have a balanced team. With experience merged in with plenty of youth(average age of starting 11 likely to be 25). But above all, the team has a lot of talent. They topped their qualifying group, which included Portugal and went undefeated. At the Euros, they have every chance of advancing from their group if they play to their potential. They should beat North Macedonia comfortably, but they also have the ability to defeat the Netherlands and Austria, if they play to their best ability. However, as the Netherlands have the advantage of playing their group matches at home, I think they will qualify. I think Ukraine will just pip Austria and qualify alongside the Dutch.

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Thank you very much for this review of your team :) I used to follow of Dynamo Kyiv and your national team a bit a few years ago. You have made me want to see your games this summer.

 

If you where to name 3 players to watch out for, who would that be?

 

You should  not underestimate Macedonia. They impressed me when they beat Germany in Duisburg in the WM-qualification.

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1 hour ago, Relling said:

Thank you very much for this review of your team :) I used to follow of Dynamo Kyiv and your national team a bit a few years ago. You have made me want to see your games this summer.

 

If you where to name 3 players to watch out for, who would that be?

 

You should  not underestimate Macedonia. They impressed me when they beat Germany in Duisburg in the WM-qualification.

Hi there @Relling, I am actually English, but I have lived in Ukraine for several years and as an avid football fan, I have begun to appreciate Ukrainian football. I've watched many a Ukrainian league match, but as far as their national team is concerned, this seems to be their strongest team since Ukraine's 2006 side/generation. 

I think that the current Ukraine side has grown a lot, even within the last 2 years. There have been some great recent discoveries such as Zubkov, Zabarnyi and Buschan, who only made their international debut's for Ukraine in 2020, but who are now all key players in the starting 11. 

As for 3 players to watch out for, I'd say Zinchenko, Malinovskyi and Yaremchuk are probably going to be 3 players who will really catch the eye. Although I think that Matviyenko in defence and Buschan in goal, will also be key figures for Ukraine as well. 

Zinchenko is able to play in his favoured creative midfield position for Ukraine and he is really able to display the variety of creative skills he has in this position.

Malinovskyi has been superb for Atalanta, the creative midfielder is excellent with his passes and is also one of the best long range shooters of a ball in the world. Don't be surprised if Malinvoskyi scores a few long range blasted goals at the Euros, because he has scored such goals regularly for Atalanta in Serie A over the past two seasons.

Yaremchuk has matured a lot over the last two seasons. Ukraine have been in search for a top class striker for a while now and Yaremchuk could be slowly developing into one for them. The season just gone was one of Yaremchuk's best so far as he was among the leading scorers in the Belgium league, despite missing 7 league matches through injury as well as through catching Covid. He has scored international goals against Germany, Portugal, Nigeria and Serbia. A fully fit Yaremchuk, should be a real threat to opposing defenders at the Euros this summer.

Yeah, North Macedonia will be a tough side, they qualified on merit to the Euros. However, I think that a well prepared Ukrainian side should beat Macedonia, seeing as player for player, Ukraine are stronger.

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22 minutes ago, Michael said:

 I am actually English

Wow. My whole world as I know it has crumbled to pieces. 

Anyway, nice review. Just today I was taking a look at all the different squads, and apart from Zinchenko and Pyatov, I didn't know many of them. So it was nice to get a bit more insight. :) 

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Just now, nudge said:

Wait, what? You didn't know that? xD 

I thought he was an Ukrainian who spent some time in England, and that's why his English is so good. I thought we have an Ukranian member on the forum, and I liked that thought.

Oh well. Just another run of the mill Englishman. Pfft. Just kidding of course. xD

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4 minutes ago, nudge said:

Wait, what? You didn't know that? xD 

Tommy's usually quick on the ball, so I am surprised he hasn't seen me mention this before. xD Although in a way, I do empathise with his sentiments, lol.

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5 minutes ago, Tommy said:

I thought he was an Ukrainian who spent some time in England, and that's why his English is so good. I thought we have an Ukranian member on the forum, and I liked that thought.

Oh well. Just another run of the mill Englishman. Pfft. Just kidding of course. xD

Haha.... wishful thinking. xD

Jokes aside though, I do identify with what you are alluding to. It's interesting to see emerging countries rise and develop as opposed to constantly listening to the press and media go on about the English, German and French national teams...:91_thumbsup:

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4 minutes ago, Michael said:

Tommy's usually quick on the ball, so I am surprised he hasn't seen me mention this before. xD Although in a way, I do empathise with his sentiments, lol.

He is, but he also has attention span of a goldfish xD 

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20 hours ago, Michael said:

Hi there @Relling, I am actually English, but I have lived in Ukraine for several years and as an avid football fan, I have begun to appreciate Ukrainian football. I've watched many a Ukrainian league match, but as far as their national team is concerned, this seems to be their strongest team since Ukraine's 2006 side/generation.

Thank you very much! :)

 

I apologize for having as defect knowledge on your nationality as our revered and beloved captain. It warms my heart to hear such words from an Englishman, coming from a marginal football culture myself.  

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5 hours ago, Relling said:

Thank you very much! :)

 

I apologize for having as defect knowledge on your nationality as our revered and beloved captain. It warms my heart to hear such words from an Englishman, coming from a marginal football culture myself.  

I take it you are from Norway, right? Norway also seem to have a golden generation emerging, with the likes of Haaland, Odegaard, Sorloth, Sander Berge,  Normann, Moller Daehli, Hauge, Kristoffer Ajer etc. Under the right management, they have the ingredients to become a very strong international side. :91_thumbsup:

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