Ukraine vs Northern Ireland – Group C – 5pm (ITV) – 16.06.16 – Stade de Lyon, Lyon
Northern Ireland fell to a 1-0 loss against Poland on Sunday without much of a fight.
Adam Nawałka’s team, which included Bundesliga and Euro 2016 qualifying top scorer Robert Lewandowski, put Northern Ireland to the sword, limiting them to just two shots (compared to Poland’s 18) and 40% possession.
But thankfully for Northern Ireland the stats failed to translate into goals and Ajax’s Arkadiusz Milik – one of just two Eredivisie players at this year’s tournament – was Poland’s only goalscorer.
Michael O’Neill had set his team up to defend, something he looks set to do in most of Northern Ireland’s games at this tournament.
But with League One side Fleetwood Town’s Conor McLaughlin at right-back the whole team will have to dig in if they want to avoid conceding.
Ukraine gave a great account of themselves against Germany despite finishing on the wrong side of a flattering 2-0 scoreline.
A gravity – defying goal line clearance from Jerome Boateng prevented Yevhen Konoplyanka’s equaliser, while Manuel Neuer was called into action by Andriy Yarmolenko more times than the German goalkeeper would perhaps have liked.
Northern Ireland will do very well to prevent those two Ukrainians from getting near their goal and, if the current world champions struggled to, it’s not going to be an easy task..
Defensive tactics against an attacking team usually means one thing and I can’t see Northern Ireland getting much change out of a dangerous Ukraine side.
Recommendation: Ukraine to win to nil at 2.20
- Northern Ireland have never beaten Ukraine (D2 L2), however the last two meetings have ended in goalless draws. The last goal Northern Ireland scored against Ukraine was by Iain Dowie in 1997
- This is the first time these sides have met in a major tournament; the previous meetings have been in World Cup (two) and EURO (two) qualifiers.
- Friendlies included, Ukraine have only lost three of their last 19 games: against the defending EURO champions Spain (twice) and World Cup champions Germany (once).
- Northern Ireland have won only one of their last 10 games at a major tournament (D4 L5), that was against Spain in the 1982 World Cup.
- Northern Ireland only had two shots against Poland in their opening outing, both in the last half hour of the game. None of them were on target.
- 56% of Northern Ireland’s goals in the qualifying campaign came from set-pieces (6 from corners, 3 from indirect free-kicks), the highest ratio among the 24 sides who made it to the 2016 edition.
- Kyle Lafferty was involved in half of Northern Ireland’s goals in qualifying (8 out of 16), scoring seven and assisting one. In the opening game against Poland, he had more touches in his own box (3) than in the opposition’s (1).
- Only Yaroslav Rakitskiy had more touches (59) than goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov (52) in Ukraine’s opening game against Germany.