Same again for watertight England?
With a place in the last four at stake Ukraine meet England at the Stadio Olimpico. England earned one of their best results of the century to beat Germany 2-0 last time out, thanks to two late second half goals from Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane. Gareth Southgate’s much criticised pragmatic approach worked a treat with the Three Lions grabbing a stranglehold of the game before two moments of quality down the left wing were enough to see them safely through. The underdogs tag with suit Ukraine in this one, who come in fresh off the back of a momentum building 2-1 victory over Sweden with Artem Dovbyk snatching glory in the 121st minute.
Ukraine may look to Scotland’s successful 0-0 draw performance against England as a blueprint to inhibit the favourites. Deep into the second half of the quarter final versus Germany, England had still only scored two goals in the competition, they are not quite hitting their straps going forward. Southgate is clearly enjoying having a weight of quality attacking talent on the bench, with Jack Grealish the go to man to create something out of nothing. Mason Mount also dropped to the bench as the Three Lions switched to a fluid 3-4-3 system for Die Mannschaft’s visit to Wembley however against a traditionally lesser opponent it would not be a surprise to see them revert back to a 4-2-3-1.
Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips despite limiting attacking output are forming quite the partnership sitting in front of the backline and I firmly expect them to replicate the shielding job if England progress to face some tougher nations, on paper, in the later rounds of the tournament. Ukraine will be praising the third place rule that helped them overcome Group E toppers Sweden in the last round, with the mercurial talents of Ruslan Malinovsky and Andriy Yarmolenko they cannot be underestimated. The last five meetings between these two dating back to 2009 have been decided by a single goal or ended in a draw and I do not see any other outcome here. It is a nice free hit for Andriy Shevchenko’s men.
Still feeling nervous about this England’s side's capabilities in the knockout along with some natural pessimism, a goals angle looks more appealing in this encounter. Doubling up for value.