There is no doubt that all eyes will be on this clash on Tuesday evening, as co-hosts Ukraine attempt to beat the odds and qualify to the next stage of Euro 2012 at the expense of England. The Three Lions are certainly in the driving seat ahead of the fixture, with Roy Hodgson’s men simply needing to avoid defeat in order to progress to the quarter-final stage of the competition.
It is rare for England to approach a major tournament with little enthusiasm, yet that was certainly the case this year with many pundits completely writing the nation off before a ball had even been kicked. However, following an impressive point against France and an enthralling 3-2 victory over Sweden, confidence has slowly been renewed in the national team and the whole country is desperate for Hodgson’s side to progress to the final eight of the competition. Their performance against the Swedes certainly brought plenty of positive attention to the team, with Hodgson also drawing the plaudits following some neat substitutions. With Ukraine regarded as the weakest team on paper in the tournament, it should therefore be a simple game for the Three Lions. Of course, as everyone has come to expect, this is never the case with England.
Their opponents meanwhile really have nothing to lose. They are heavily backed by many nations, with a lot of countries simply wanting the Ukrainians to progress as they are co-hosting the tournament. Backed by their home support, they certainly have at least one advantage and they showed against Sweden in their opening game that they can be a match for anyone after snatching a 2-1 victory. However, the country was brought back to reality against France a few days ago following a 2-0 defeat, and it remains to be seen how they will respond to that setback in this do-or-die outing.
As for team news, England have been handed a huge boost after Theo Walcott was declared fit following an early scare. Walcott, who came on as a substitute in England’s victory over Sweden and made a huge impression, has successfully recovered from a hamstring problem and is pushing for a place in the starting eleven. That was Roy Hodgson’s only concern for the game, meaning that the Three Lions have a fully fit squad to choose from. Ukraine’s situation isn’t quite as positive, with Andriy Shevchenko ranked as 50-50 to make the encounter as a knee issue hinders him. However, that is the co-hosts only issue, although with Shevchenko being their main source of goals, his absence would certainly be a major problem.
In terms of a prediction, our tip is going to be for a draw. England may possess the stronger squad on paper, yet we are expecting an apprehensive performance from the Three Lions who know that defeat is not an option. Ukraine meanwhile will probably go all out to net the victory and bearing this in mind, our tip will be a 1-1 score line.