Euro Group C Preview – Ukraine vs Northern Ireland

Euro Group C Preview – Ukraine vs Northern Ireland

Ukraine vs Northern Ireland on Thursday night in Lyon will be a must win match for the Ukrainian national team following the defeat against Germany. Futbolgrad previews the encounter.

First match impressions

Northern Ireland didn’t look particularly impressive against Poland in their first match—but then again, neither did Ukraine, outside of a 15 minute spell in the first half when they came agonizingly close to an equalizer.

Ukraine national team manager and holding midfielder aficionado Mykhailo Fomenko surprised with his team selection, opting to start attacking midfielder Viktor Kovalenko instead of field a trio of holding midfielders. Unfortunately the Shakhtar Donetsk youngster did not particularly impress and was virtually invisible throughout.

Elsewhere on the pitch goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov shook off his dismal performance in the pre-tournament friendly against Romania and was the best man on the pitch, as he kept Ukraine in the match on multiple occasions. Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka looked threatening only in passing moments, and striker Roman Zozulya did not have a single shot, neither on target nor off.

Overall, Ukraine were outclassed everywhere on the pitch—the Germans outshot the Ukrainians 12 – 2 in total and 7-1 in shots on frame. Manuel Neuer had little to do, although his second half shove on Yevhen Seleznyov arguably should have drawn a penalty. It was not a promising beginning to Ukraine’s second ever Euros, and the first for which they qualified.


Granted, Ukraine were playing the world champions, and expectations for the first match were low. This time around, however, nothing short of a victory will be satisfactory.

While Fomenko’s decision to field an attacking midfielder against Germany came as a surprise, against Northern Ireland such a tactical setup is expected. Kovalenko’s poor performance in the opener has left open the possibility that fellow young star Oleksandr Zinchenko will start on Thursday.

Other than that possible adjustment, the starting eleven will likely be unchanged, but Yevhen Seleznyov may get the opportunity to start up front. Another possibility is for fullback Bohdan Butko to replace left back Vyacheslav Shevchuk who, at 37 years old, may struggle to start a second match in less than a week.

Ukraine will be favorites against Northern Ireland and will surely see more of the ball. But while Northern Ireland looked poor against Poland in their opening match, they will also see this is a very winnable match that will largely determine whether or not they qualify for the next round.

Ukraine’s players fully recognize how crucial their next match is. Serhiy Sydorchuk, who failed to mark Shkodran Mustafi during Germany’s first goal but had a solid performance overall, told reporters that this will be their most important match of the tournament.

While no one is underestimating their next opponents, assistant manager and legendary striker Andriy Shevchenko is optimistic. Shevchenko, who thus far is Ukraine’s only ever goalscorer at the Euros, said that if the team continues playing with same spirit, concentration, and desire, a goal will inevitably come.

Ukraine vs Northern Ireland – Prediction

Ukraine’s talented wingers will give them the edge, and a narrow 1-0 victory will put them in a solid position to qualify prior to the decisive match against Poland.

By Vadim Furmanov –