So, it is decided then. Russia and Ukraine will both be competing in Euro 2020. As winners of Group B, Ukraine receives an automatic spot, as does Russia.
They will be joining England, the Czech Republic, Portugal, Germany, Netherlands, Switzerland, Denmark, Croatia, Wales, Spain, Sweden, Poland, Austria, France, Turkey, Italy, Finland, and, of course, Belgium.
There are still four more places at next year’s tournament to be claimed, and they will be decided by playoffs featuring another 16 teams, which include among them the Republic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Iceland, Bulgaria, Scotland, Norway, Serbia, and others.
Euro 2020 will be a one-off, unique tournament that, instead of being hosted in one state – such as last time when France hosted the finals in 2016 – the matches will be spread right across Europe. For instance, the first game will take place in the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, while the final and one semifinal will be staged at London’s Wembley Stadium. And, five years from now, the tournament will revert back to type for Germany 2024.
But how will Ukraine and Russia fare? Whether interested as a fan or as someone looking for betting picks, this is a tough question. The answer really all depends on the UEFA Euro 2020 final tournament draw, which will take place in Bucharest, Romania, on Nov. 30 and will determine the groups and with it potential opponents.
Ukraine has a number of players plying their trade in the world’s elite leagues, with some, as in the case of Manchester City defender Oleksandr Zinchenko, even with the elite clubs. But, perhaps its best player plays at London’s Olympic Stadium for West Ham United, Andriy Yarmolenko.
Were it not for a string of horrific injuries, Yarmolenko would have been a world star by now, but even in a struggling Hammers side, he has been a key player, showing glimpses of his best form while returning back to fitness yet again.
Recent Man Of The Match performances in wins against Manchester United and Bournemouth, scoring in both, show that he is capable of being one of the best midfielders in the English Premier League. Yarmolenko’s form at the start of his second season in England has been encouraging given his considerable transfer fee of £17.5 million, fairly hefty to lowly West Ham.
Fresh from his summer 2018 move from Borussia Dortmund, he made just 10 appearances before tearing his Achilles tendon against Tottenham Hotspur.
After a decade spent with Dynamo Kiev, Yarmolenko secured a dream move to Germany and Dortmund in 2017, which turned sour when he managed only six goals in 26 appearances, suffering again with injuries. Still, six goals in 26 is almost one in four, which is a pretty high level for a midfielder.
Internationally, Yarmolenko, who coincidentally was born in Russia, has 38 goals, just 10 behind his manager, the legendary Andriy Shevchenko, which is proof that a fit Yarmolenko is a dangerous Yarmolenko, and he will be key if Ukraine wants to do well at Euro 2020.
As for Russia, assuming nothing comes from the drug ban, its hopes will be pinned on 6-5 Artem Dzyuba, who was the top scorer in qualifying after bagging nine goals, even if four of them did come as part of a 9-0 win against San Marino. The Zenit St. Petersburg forward is clearly Russia’s leading goal threat, as evidenced by his international goal record of netting 24 in 40 games.
Never having played abroad, as is the case for most of the Russian team, the 31-year-old Dzyuba has had a long and uncertain career, unloved by many coaches as he carved out an unremarkable career at Spartak Moscow until a 2015 move to Zenit St. Petersburg changed all that.
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Now, he is his nation’s captain, top scorer, and has been linked with a move to Glasgow Rangers and even Manchester United.
The Russian isn’t just a towering giant; he has the touch, vision and interplay to create chances for his teammates and knows where the goal is. Vital if his team has any chance of making out of the group stage.
Ukraine is led by one of the greatest players of all time, AC Milan legend Andriy Shevchenko. Shevchenko has moved into management seamlessly, having already worked as the team’s assistant before being promoted to first-team boss in 2016 and since leading them to a comfortable qualification that was sealed with a win over Portugal in October.
Russian boss Stanislav Cherchesov is also a former player, albeit a goalkeeper, and he also took the reins in 2016. Since then, he has exceeded expectations after guiding Russia to the quarterfinals in the 2018 World Cup, hosted, of course, by Russia. He even manufactured a remarkable win for his side against pre-tournament favorite Spain, which then spurred the side on all the way to qualification to Euro 2020 a year later.
Historically, both sides have enjoyed different fortunes at a European tournament’s latter stages. Ukraine debuted in the competition when it hosted the European Championships in 2012 in conjunction with Poland and only made the second round, where it lost 1-0 to England. By contrast, Russia has participated 11 times, although five of these were as The Soviet Union. In fact, its best performance was as the USSR when it won the 1960 European Championships
As Russia, it has failed to make it out of the group stage on all but one occasion when, in 2008 in a tournament staged in Austria and Switzerland, it lost in the semifinals 3-0 to Spain.