England will play away from Wembley for the first time at Euro 2020 when they face Ukraine in the quarter-finals.
Andriy Shevchenko’s Blue and Yellow army come into the clash as heavy underdogs and rightfully so after sneaking through to this stage with just a single win in 90 minutes against tournament debutants North Macedonia.
Nevertheless, you’re only as good as your last performance and Ukraine will take confidence from their dramatic victory over Sweden in the 120th minute of extra-time.
While the game is not being played in front of the English faithful at Wembley Stadium, Gareth Southgate’s men know that the pressure is on with such an “easy” road to the final.
Euro 2020 – Quarter-final
Saturday 3 July
Stadio Olimpico, Rome
To Win (90 min)
Ukraine will be up for a fight; without any star names you sense that this team enjoys working for each other and wearing the underdog tag.
From Ukraine’s perspective, they’re also two very winnable games away from reaching the final and understand that they can frustrate the English by making it difficult to play against. The English have previously struggled to break down dogged defence at this tournament (just think of Scotland).
Captain Andriy Yarmolenko and towering number nine Roman Yaremchuk are expected to lead the line with each forward finding the back of the net in the 3-2 defeat to Netherlands and 2-1 win over minnows North Macedonia.
Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko will bomb down the left flank and try to get in advance areas in the midfield, trying to penetrate the channel between club teammates Kyle Walker and John Stones.
Zinchenko will continue trying to run into free space and swing in delicious left-footed corners into Yaremchuk, who’ll have his work cut out trying to beat Manchester United captain Harry Maguire in aerial duels that could go a long way in deciding the game.
“It’s Coming Home”, was plastered all over social media after the Three Lions defeated their arch-enemies Germany in the round of 16 thanks to second-half goals by Raheem Sterling and captain Harry Kane.
Is the trophy going home with England? Even though some of the bookmakers’ favourites like France or Portugal were sent home packing sooner than expected, Southgate’s approach to football matches doesn’t fill me with confidence.
With the amount of attacking talent at his disposal, Southgate opts to play just two attackers to support Kane which is the most worrying sign. The lack of attacking intent invites the opposition into the contest and if Ukraine can score the first goal of the game, the initial plan could backfire.
England’s record of keeping clean sheets could have you arguing that Southgate’s team buys into his game plan and conceding once in their last 10 games could certainly back that up.
However, with so much at stake and with the amount of quality within their ranks, I’d really enjoy it if England could impose some of their personality on this encounter by making a statement of intent and blitzing Ukraine to reach the semi-finals in style.
Prediction: England Win & Both Team to Score (Yes) 3/1
Looking to add some extra value to your bet, England to win and Ukraine to score piques my interest at 3/1 odds. Ukraine have impressed under Shevchenko and they’ve only failed to score once in 10 matches, while I fully expect England’s quality to come shining through even if it means bringing on reinforcements off the bench to finish the job.