Michael O’Neill’s Northern Ireland will look for goals against Ukraine but they may not see many coming their way thinks Will Burns.
Thursday 16th June 2016 – 17:00 BST
EURO 2016 – GROUP C
UKRAINE v NORTHERN IRELAND
The two teams that were defeated last weekend in their opening games, go head-to-head in what could be a third place playoff even at this early stage.
Michael O’Neill has got his Northern Ireland side like a well-oiled machine and they frustrated the life out of Poland last Sunday afternoon. West Brom defender Jonny Evans battled and bruised Robert Lewandowski to an uneventful game for the Bayern Munich man, however without an out-an-out striker in the ranks for Ukraine, he might have a quiet afternoon.
With a never-say-die attitude and the well-organised defence, I fail to see Northern Ireland conceding many to Ukraine if any at all. The Ukrainians have two threats in their whole squad in my opinion – Andriy Yarmolenko and Yehven Konoplyanka. The wingers can cut inside and blast a shot into any goal however, as you seen last Sunday, Northern Ireland forced and stuck bodies in front of every shot outside the area.
Whether or not Northern Ireland can score a goal remains to be seen. O’Neill changed the shape against Poland late in the second half to be more adventurous and try and claim a point but to no avail. They will need to be on the front foot on Thursday after losing that match, but I can see that being their downfall and Ukraine might be able to hit on the counter with the two threats I’ve mentioned above.
Ukraine coach Mykhaylo Fomeko, like O’Neill will have his side ready for any attack, and only let in four goals all qualification. Fomeko could stick with the same team that ran Germany close. He has no injury concerns and has the whole squad to select from.
Under 2.5 Goals has landed in the last six European Championship games, including the qualifiers and apart from set-pieces, I cannot see many goals coming from either side and a 0-0 draw or a Ukraine 1-0 win (9/2 at BetVictor) maybe on the cards. In fact, the last two encounters between the two has finished 0-0, however the last one was played back in 2003!
If you’re betting… good luck!
TIP: Under 1.5 Goals (2.90 at 888Sport)
TIP: Correct Score – Ukraine 1-0 Northern Ireland (5.50 at BetVictor)