Ukraine vs England: WC Qualifier

WC Qualifier | Tuesday 10 September | NSK Olimpijs'kyj, Kiev | 20:45


The last time England played in Kiev was during the 2012 European championships, where they tasted defeat at the hands of a Pirlo-inspired Italian side.

The tournament also contained a controversial 1-0 victory over Ukraine which effectively eliminated the host nation from the competition.

That contentious ‘goal line clearance’ by John Terry was widely criticised, and ultimately proved a decisive moment in the tight defeat.

Things could not be more precariously balanced than they are in Group H at the moment.

Ukraine know that they will probably need a win in this home fixture to take the initiative in a group featuring both England and Montenegro.

To Win (90mins)
Ukraine 17/10
Draw 9/4
England 16/10

Ukraine
Mikhail Fomenko has led something of a renaissance in Ukrainian football. The team remains unbeaten under him, including an impressive 4-0 victory in Montenegro.

Their 9-0 demolition of San Marino on Friday, though expected, will give the team added confidence.

Eight different goal scorers means eight egos boosted, and that encouragement could be vital on Tuesday night.

They will be looking to the leadership of Zenit St Petersburg’s Tymoshchuk, as they attempt to seize control of a group that they were initially struggling in.

It will be interesting to see if striker Marko Devic plays, considering it was his ‘strike’ that was so incongruously ruled out in the Euro 2012 fixture.

They have had to adapt to the double retirement of both Shevchenko and Andriy Voronin, with Zozulya and Devic attempting to full those considerable boots.

The midfield is a powerful area for the Ukraine, with both Konoplyanka and Garmash scoring in the Montenegro match.

Their greatest attribute is the fact that many of them play their football together on a consistent basis for clubs such as Dynamo Kiev and Shakhtar Donetsk.

It is quite a contrast to an England team with such a fragmented composition.

England
Roy Hodgson was left fuming following Danny Welbeck’s booking during Friday night’s victory over Moldova.

The striker will now miss Tuesday’s encounter through suspension, and injuries to Rooney, Sturridge and Andy Carroll mean a severely diminished roster of available strikers.

What really flabbergasted me was an interview with Hodgson where he proclaimed the 0-0 draw between United and Chelsea as the game of the season.

It indicated the overly cautious approach of the manager perfectly; that draw was probably the most dire advertisement for Premier League football I have seen in some time.

So the English fans should suspect an extremely measured and potentially dangerous approach from the Three Lions.

It was strongly intimated by Hodgson that Milner will start on the left hand side, an obvious ploy to solidify the middle of the park.

Lampard and Gerrard are encouragingly beginning to gel in their more withdrawn roles.

Wilshere and Walcott will likely complete the midfield behind Southampton star Rickie Lambert.

Lambert will no doubt be relishing the chance to spearhead the attack; my concern is the attitudes of the players behind him.

If England stick to the ‘we have and we hold’ mentality Hodgson has been indicating then they could be in for problems against an aggressive Ukrainian side.

The recent form of Joe Hart is yet another area that the Ukrainians will be looking to exploit.

Thoughts

The game should follow a predictable tempo in the early stages, with Ukraine doing all the initial pressing.

England will invite some pressure and hope to spring quick counter-attacks with a packed midfield.

Milner and Walcott will be critical in maintaining possession as the English full-backs will err heavily on the side of caution.

After the cagey opening there will be an increasing urgency to Ukraine’s play, which will result in chances that under-pressure keeper Joe Hart will have to deal with.

BETTING VERDICT: Draw 9/4
I expect Ukraine may take a first half lead, which will force England to address their game plan in the second half and obtain their equalizer. Frank Lampard will be making his 100th appearance for the Three Lions and could be the man to bring them level from a dead ball situation.

Written by Damien Kayat for @Hollywoodbets and Hollywoodbets Sports Blog.

The man knows his football, but even he gets it wrong from time to time. Feel free to share your view below.