Euro 2016: Ukraine vs Northern Ireland - Match prediction and head to head
Ukraine take on Norther Ireland in the second match on the sixth day of the Euros, at the Parc OL, Lyon. This will be a crucial match for both the teams, as they lost their openers to Germany and Poland respectively.
Northern Ireland registered a disappointing performance against Poland, which they lost 1-0. Michael O'Neill will hope for a better showing in this ‘make or break match’ against Ukraine.
Ukraine meanwhile lost 2-0 to World Champions Germany, but they’ll take inspiration from playing well in patches against one of the tournament favourites. A loss could potentially end either of the teams’ campaign while a win would keep their chances of making it to the last 16, alive.
Northern Ireland will look for a win today and hope for results to go their way as they look for another spring another surprise in the tournament. Finishing in the top three in the group will keep their hopes of the last 16 alive, as 4 of the third-placed teams in all the Groups will get a chance to qualify for the later stages of the tournament.
Michael O'Neill might consider changing the formation to a 3-5-2 for the game, and the Norwich man, Lafferty could have a strike partner in either Conor Washington or Jamie Ward. Manchester United man, Jonny Evans, will be a key once again at the heart of their defense.
Ukraine lost their opening match, and currently have no points on the board, but will look to star man, Yevhen Konoplyanka, to provide them with a breakthrough. The 26-year old winger from Sevilla will look to cut inside and shoot at the Northern Ireland goal.
A good performance from the winger, supported by Andriy Yarmolenko, will give Ukraine a good chance to win, and grab the all-important 3 points. Roman Zozulya meanwhile is expected to be the lone striker for them, today. Ukraine is expected to play the 4-2-3-1 formation, with Zozulya as their main striker.
Head to Head
Ukraine and Northern Ireland has faced each other 4 times before today’s encounter. Ukraine has won twice, and the two of the remaining matches ended in a draw. Thus, Northern Ireland will go into the game looking to register their first win against them, in this crucial encounter.
The first meeting between the two sides was in Belfast, on August 31,1996, in a World Cup qualifier. Ukraine won the match 1-0. Their second match was the second-leg of the qualifier, in Kiev, where the Ukrainians prevailed 2-1 and won the tie against Northern Ireland 3-1 on aggregate.
The teams next met at Belfast, on October 16, 2002, in the European Championship qualifier. Neither of the teams could break the deadlock, and the match ended 0-0.
In their most recent encounter, the teams met at Donetsk for the second leg of the Euro Cup qualifier, on September 6, 2003. The then Northern Ireland coach, Sammy McIlroy’s side didn’t manage to score a goal for the 11th successive game, and there was a countdown when they finished 1000 minutes goalless.
The teams were in Group 6 of the Euro 2004 qualifiers, and both failed to progress to the main tournament. Ukraine were third in Group, while Northern Ireland finished last in their Group. Northern Ireland failed to score a single goal in the qualifying tournament and ended the qualifiers with no wins under their belt, and 5 losses.
However, this is a much stronger Northern Ireland side, and can cause some serious problems for the Ukrainian side.
This will be a game with a lot of aggressive football by both the teams, as they look for a win to give them a chance to qualify for the last 16. A draw won’t be the desired result for either of the teams, as they face the group favourites in their last first round matches, and will be hard to get any points off them. My prediction for this “make or break game” is 1-0 in favour of Ukraine.