Mark Temnycky –
Ukraine vs Nigeria – Tuesday, September 10, 19:30 BST/20:30 CEST – Dnipro-Arena, Dnipro, Ukraine
After building a substantial lead in their 2020 Euro qualification group, Ukraine will take a break from their qualification campaign as they host Nigeria for an international friendly. Given the productivity and masterclass of the Zbirna, it is predicted manager Andriy Shevchenko will rest his veteran stars and will field a more youthful squad.
Ukraine have been impressive as they have lost only one of their last 13 international matches. Moreover, they have kept eight clean sheets in these 13 encounters, signifying they have a strong defense and are capable of holding their opposition at bay.
Ukraine still struggle with their attacking players, however, and this friendly will provide Shevchenko with an opportunity to tinker with his tactics. The pressure will be off of his side, knowing they are on the verge of qualifying for the European Championships this summer, and it will provide some younger players with an opportunity to show what they are capable of accomplishing on the field.
Meanwhile, this is Nigeria’s first international match following the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations. The Super Eaglesfinished third in this year’s tournament, where they narrowly defeated Tunisia in the third place match. They will be without their star striker Odio Ighalo as he is recovering from an injury, but it will allow manager Gernot Rohr to tinker with his squad.
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Rohr will already be thinking ahead to the 2021 Africa Cup of Nations as the Super Eagleswill prepare for their qualification campaign in future months. The friendly against Ukraine will allow to start making selections for the upcoming qualifiers, and many of his players will look to showcase their talent to their manager.
With the likes of Alex Iwobi, Wilfred Ndidi, Ahmed Musa and Kelechi Iheanacho, Nigeria has a series of talented attacking players that will look to punish Ukraine’s defense.
Ukraine vs Nigeria – Players to Watch:
Roman Yaremchuk #18 – Ukraine (Gent)
Following the retirement of striker Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine have struggled to produce another world class striker. From the likes of Yevhen Seleznyov, Roman Zozulya, Artem Kravets and Artem Besyedin, Shevchenko’s successors have been unable to produce the same caliber in front of goal. Ukraine have now selected Roman Yaremchuk as a new possible successor, and so far, the young striker has scored two goals in five Euro 2020 qualification games for Ukraine. In order to build his confidence in front of goal, he will need to get all the game time he can get and thus should use the friendly against Nigeria as a way to build his confidence.
Alex Iwobi #18 – Nigeria (Everton)
Alex Iwobi played an instrumental role in Nigeria’s 2019 Africa Cup of Nations campaign. The Super Eagleswere unlucky not to have won the tournament, but finished third in the competition. The young attacker is dangerous with the ball and is capable of punishing defenses. With his pace, he will look to outmatch his Ukrainian opposition in this international friendly.
Ukraine vs Nigeria – Match Statistics:
- This will be the first meeting between these two national teams.
- Ukraine are currently at the top of their 2020 European Championship qualification group, where they have won four matches and drew once.
- Nigeria finished third in the 2019 Africa Cup of Nations.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Ukraine vs Nigeria – 1-2
Lunin – Karavayev, Burda, Plastun, Sobol – Malinovskyi, Kovalenko, Zinchenko – Tsygankov, Yaremchuk, Buyalskyi
Manager: Andriy Shevchenko
Uzoho – Aina, Troost-Ekong, Omeruo, Collins – Ndidi, Etebo – Chukwueze, Iwobi, Musa – Osimhen
Manager: Gernot Rohr
Mark Temnycky is an accredited AIPS journalist who reports on the Ukrainian men’s national team and Ukrainian clubs competing in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. Outside of the Futbolgrad Network, he covers Manchester City for SB Nation’s Bitter and Blue. Follow him @MTemnycky