Ukraine and Northern Ireland look for their first win at Euro 2016 when they lock horns at the Parc Olympique Lyonnais on Thursday evening.
A lackluster Ukraine was defeated 2-0 by Germany in the opening fixture which put them at the bottom of the table alongside Northern Ireland, who lost by a solo goal to Poland. Both teams must win their remaining two fixtures, if they are to earn automatic qualification from Group C.
Ukraine’s form coming into the tournament was a six match unbeaten run with 5 wins and a draw. They had scored 7 goals in the last two warm-up matches, but shipped in 4 goals in return. Konoplyanka and Co. must improve in every department if they are break down a stubborn Northern Ireland defense on Thursday.
The defeat to Poland ended Northern Ireland’s 12 match unbeaten run. They had won 6 and drawn in 6 matches during that period and three consecutive clean sheets before conceding that decisive goal against Poland in the second half. Including the goal conceded in the opening Euro 2016 match, the let just 3 goals in their last 7 matches, which is an indication of how effective they can be in shutting out opponents.
Ukraine: Team News
Mykhaylo Fomenko has the luxury of a fully fit squad at his disposal. He likely to retain the same line-up that started against Germany on Sunday, until unless any force changes occur in the closing minutes to kick-off.
Ukraine: Predicted Line-up (4-2-3-1)
Pyatov – Shevchuk, Rakitskiy, Khacheridi, Fedetskiy – Stepanenko, Sydorchuk – Konoplyanka, Kovalenko, Yarmolenko – Zozulya.
Northern Ireland: Team News
Watford defender Craig Cathcart, who played the entire 90 minute of his team’s Group C opened is deemed fit to start again. While Kyle Lafferty is also expected to retain his place in the starting lineup amidst fitness concerns.
Michael O’Neill is expected to field the same starting line-up he used in the 1-0 loss to Poland on Sunday evening.
Northern Ireland: Predicted Line-up (3-4-1-1)
McGovern – McAuley, Cathcart, Evans – Fergusson, Norwood, Baird, McNair, McLaughlin – Davis – Lafferty.
Ukraine vs Northern Ireland: Head-to-Head Stats
Ukraine are unbeaten in 4 matches against Northern Ireland, a head-to-head record reads 2 wins and 2 draws.
The last two meetings between Ukraine and Northern Ireland ended in 0-0 stalemate, the latest of which was on September 2003.
Ukraine vs Northern Ireland: Prediction
With the likes of Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko at their side, Ukraine are expected to take the game to Northern Ireland from the word go. They will take some positive from the number of chances their created in the loss to Germany. However they must expect high pressing defensive tactics from Michael O’Neill’s side.
Both teams are desperate for a win here and from the first matches of these teams, Northern Ireland look like the weaker side of two. Their problem is the inability to create chances and was wasteful from dead ball situations.
It will be sensible to back Ukraine to win this one, since you can expect very little intention from Northern Ireland in going forward.
Exact Score Prediction: Ukraine 2-0 Northern Ireland.
Ukraine to win (1.65)
Under 2.5 goals (1.57)