Sweden and Ukraine have come a long way, especially considering the latter’s struggles during the group stage. While Sweden did have glimpses of impressive football at the display, Andriy Shevchenko’s side barely qualified to the final sixteen, having come in as one of the four best losers, finishing below Netherlands and Austria despite some impressive results coming into the European Championship.
The Swedes claimed the top spot in the UEFA Euro 2020 Group E ahead of former European and World Champions, Spain. Keeping clean sheets against a top contender like Spain and Slovakia is proof of their capability to nullify attacks while finding joy in putting the ball in the back of the net. Though Sweden are yet to win a knockout tie since their engagement in the UEFA EURO tournament, but judging by their form and quality in personnel this term, they surely have a strong chance to rewrite their history and take their nation a step closer in achieving the unthinkable.
Sweden got some massive boost in their last group match with the return of Dejan Kulusevski and Mattias Svanberg, as the duo were cleared to return after COVID-19 infection at the dawn of the tournament, and Janne Andersson will be seriously considering the former to his first start after Dejan came from the bench against Poland to set up two goals. However, with Emil Forsberg and Sebastian Larsson proving hard to deal with, he may consider keeping the Juventus winger as a super-sub for an impact similar to the one against Poland.
While for Ukraine, Viktor Tsyhankov and Oleksandr Zubkov are struggling with calf injuries and may have to sit this one out.
WHO SAY WHAT
Both sides have been speaking through the media, as the Swedish coach Janne Andersson praised the transition play of their counterparts: “I gathered the players and told them I wouldn’t want to be anywhere else in the world than in that room, at the moment, with those people. Ukraine are a good team; they know how to switch from defence to attack. They looked worn out against Austria, but like us they’ve had some rest – even more actually.”
While Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine coach, magnified Sweden’s physical strength in his pre-match press: “Sweden are a very organised team, and I am full of respect for them. They have a certain style of play, and they don’t deviate from it. The things they do they do very well, especially their passes upfield. They have two great strikers, and are very strong physically so rarely lose one-on-one battles.” – Although this by no means, mean the Ukrainian will out-rightly concede easily in duels et al, as with a good tactical approach and discipline from the Ukrainians, they can easily outsmart their opponent (as they’ve done on multiple occasions over the last couple of years).
While Shevchenko was varying about the Swedes and the sheer attacking quality they’d be keen to unleash tomorrow, Ukraine starts in Mykola Shaparenko and Andriy Yarmolenko sounded pretty optimistic about repealing what Sweden have in the den for them in the build-up to the fixture.
Mykola Shaparenko: “We have made history but we want to make new history now. Sweden are a tough team with big character, they fight for every metre of the pitch and have some great individual players.”
Andriy Yarmolenko: “We’ll try to play our football and show our best form. We haven’t played our best football here yet.”
PLAYER TO WATCH:
The former Borussia Dortmund winger has been in influential form this European championship despite his struggles all-season at West Ham. While he is the man Ukraine turns to when they want to create something in the final third. Yarmolenko has been his absolute self with the potential that the Hammers expected out of him when he first arrived in London. And for Sweden to come out of this one unhurt, he is the man to keep at bay.
SWEDEN predicted XI vs Ukraine: Olsen; Lustig, Lindelof, Danielson, Augustinsson; Larsson, Ekdal, Olsson, Forsberg; Isak, Quaison.
Ukraine predicted XI vs Sweden: Bushchan; Karavaez, Zabarnyi, Matviyenko, Mykolenko; Malinovskyi, Sydorchuk, Zinchenko; Yarmolenko, Yaremchuk, Tsygankov.
Considering the shock exit of the Netherlands in the hands of the well-disciplined Czech side, Sweden and the Ukrainians will have to leave no room for complacency.
Though we predict Sweden’s fine form off late should prove enough on the day.
Sweden vs Ukraine: 3 – 2