Both sides didn’t get off to the best of starts to their Euro 2016 campaigns last Sunday with Ukraine falling to World Champions Germany and Northern Ireland well outclassed by Poland. Both teams will look to get a vital win over the other knowing that a point will do neither side any real favours
Ukraine will consider themselves unlucky that they didn’t breach Manuel Neuer’s goal and were it not for the acrobatics of Jerome Boateng then they very well would have. The looked bright in the first 45 minutes but they seemed to fizzle out after the break, although they lost 2-0 to Germany the scoreline doesn’t quite reflect the nature of the game and they will certainly take positives going into their second group game
As for Michael O’Neill’s side they will have to raise the efforts especially in the final third of the pitch if they are to get off the mark and open their tournament account this afternoon. They were well marshalled in the first 45 minutes against Poland but with almost 8 at the back at times you did wonder if they could replicate that for the next 45. The answer was that they couldn’t with them conceding just 5 minutes after the restart. The goal forced O’Neill to make changes and try and get back into the game. Kyle Lafferty looked very isolated at times and perhaps O’Neill will look to go with two up to from the start this time around
The defeat to Poland doesn’t really change anything with this game still being a must win for Northern Ireland but failure to do so and you have to reckon that the task of getting out of the group stages will become a lot harder. Jonny Evans was impressive in his match long duel with Robert Lewandowski and this time around he will have to keep quiet the likes of Yehven Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko if they are to get anything out of the game this afternoon
Many felt that Northern Ireland got stage fright on Sunday after their return to a major tournament after a 30 year absence they will have to make sure they don’t fluff their lines again otherwise the 3rd act could be a dead rubber. After watching these two sides in action last week you would make Ukraine the favourites but if Northern Ireland can rediscover the form that got them here in the first place then they have every chance of getting off the mark.