England go in search of yet another tournament semi-final when they face Ukraine in Rome on Saturday at 8pm (UK time).
After underachieving for so long, the Three Lions have become quite accustomed to making the final four under Gareth Southgate, having lost to Croatia in the 2018 World Cup semi-finals while the Netherlands beat them at the same stage of the inaugural Uefa Nations League.
But this year feels a little different. After beating Germany in a tournament knockout match for the first time since 1966, the draw has opened up for England with no behemoth awaiting them until the final. Up next are a Ukraine side that many tipped to cause problems prior to Euro 2020’s kick-off.
Ukraine vs England odds with William Hill…
- Ukraine (90 minutes): 8/1
- Draw (90 minutes): 17/5
- England (90 minutes): 2/5
Andriy Shevchenko’s men have already run the Dutch close in the group stages, while they showed plenty of grit and determination to beat Sweden 2-1 after extra-time in the last-16. With no home advantage, England cannot afford to underestimate their opponents, despite this being Ukraine’s first-ever European Championships quarter-final.
So, without further ado, here are five predictions for the match, including possible line-ups and final score.
1. Possible Ukraine XI
Although he used a 4-3-3 formation during the group stages, Shevchenko adopted a 3-5-2 shape for the last-16 tie against Sweden. After seeing how defensively resolute it made Ukraine, who limited the Swedes to just three shots on target, and the counter-attacking threat it posed, Shevchenko might well be tempted to stick to his guns against England.
Heorhiy Bushchan has already made 13 saves at this tournament so far and will likely keep his place between the posts, while Mykola Matvienko should continue to anchor the defence alongside Serhii Kryvtsov and Illia Zabarnyi. At wing-back, Oleksandr Zinchenko continues on the left after rounding off a wonderful performance against Sweden with his side’s opening goal, while Oleksandr Karavaev keeps place on the right.
The experience of Taras Stepanenko and the defensive solidity of Mykola Sharapenko will be key to Ukraine’s chances in this game, but Shevchenko will also need a little more creativity to break down this air-tight English defence. With that in mind, don’t be surprised to see Atalanta’s Ruslan Malinovskiy return to the starting XI.
Andriy Yarmolenko limped off against Sweden, but if he’s even 50% fit, he’ll likely start as Ukraine’s talisman after starring with two goals and two assists so far. The West Ham forward will most probably be partnered by Roman Yaremchuk, who scored the winning goal against North Macedonia in the group stages.
2. Possible England XI
While Southgate switched systems to (successfully) match up with Germany’s wing-backs on Tuesday, it’s unlikely that he’ll do the same against Ukraine as he seeks to impose his side on the game quickly. The sooner England take control, the less chance Ukraine have of catching them off balance and putting an upset on the cards. A return to 4-2-3-1 should help in that regard.
Jordan Pickford has been excellent at Euro 2020 so far, keeping four clean sheets from four games and making some vital saves. He’s unquestionably the No.1 right now. And at centre-back, John Stones has assumed a brilliant leadership role, while Harry Maguire looked supremely dominant against Germany. Luke Shaw was also excellent in stopping Joshua Kimmich on Tuesday and should retain his left-back berth, while Kyle Walker will likely be preferred to Kieran Trippier on the right with his pace enabling him to pin back Zinchenko, who is one of Ukraine’s most threatening players.
The double-pivot of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips has been key to making England so secure and given the latter’s ability to drive forward in possession, there’s little need for that to change here. But ahead of them, the creativity of the returning Mason Mount could be vital in unlocking a tightly packed Ukraine backline.
Raheem Sterling has been the goalscoring hero for England at this tournament, while Bukayo Saka has become an unlikely starter, providing serious thrust to what is a largely pragmatic side. They would flank Harry Kane, who is finally off the mark and will look to use his goal against Germany to drive him forward from here.
3. Yarmolenko to take another step toward Sheva’s record?
Though his status in club football will never reach Shevchenko’s level, Andriy Yarmolenko is almost as highly regarded with his home nation. That’s because, with 42 goals in 98 caps, the West Ham forward is now just six strikes short of Shevchenko’s goalscoring record for Ukraine. Not to mention the 23 assists he’s managed in that time, including a delicious delivery to set up Zinchenko last time out.
Yarmolenko’s time with West Ham has been blemished by injury, but he’s still managed a few moments of brilliance, and Hammers supporters will be keenly aware of how capable the 31-year-old is of hurting England, should he be given the time and space.
Yarmolenko has a rocket of a left foot, capable of smashing the ball into the top corner from almost any angle. And his vision and dribbling ability make him a threat for any defender whether splitting the opponent open or taking them on one-on-one.
Shevchenko’s hopes rest firmly on the man chasing his goalscoring record.
Andriy Yarmolenko anytime goalscorer vs England is priced at 11/2 with William Hill
4. Is Raheem Sterling a serious Golden Boot contender?
Given his relatively patchy club form last season (relative meaning he still scored 14 goals across all competitions) the inclusion of Raheem Sterling in Southgate’s starting line-up against Croatia irked a few England fans. But the Man City man vindicated his manager’s choice with the winning goal and since then, he hasn’t looked back, finding the net on two more occasions, including against Germany on Tuesday.
Sterling’s three strikes account for 75% of England’s tournament total so far and are a sure indication of just how important his pace and goalscoring instincts are to the Three Lions. Without him, they may not even be in the quarter-finals at all.
“He’s been the one in this tournament who we needed to lift us and get us over the line and get us a result. He’s the person we looked to,” said Rio Ferdinand after England’s 2-0 win over Germany.
“What a professional, hard worker, the courage is one of the things I love about him. He’s one of them players who has the ability to scare you.
“He’s hard to read, his trickery. At this stage of his career, he’s producing the end product, he’s decisive and deciding games. I believe that this kid has been at that level (world-class).”
The 26-year-old is now just two short of the summit in the Golden Boot race. But current leader Cristiano Ronaldo is out. Karim Benzema and Emil Forsberg, on four goals each, have also exited the tournament. Given England’s favourable route to the final, Sterling now feels like a serious contender for the top goalscoring prize, when most fans would have been tipping Kane as the nation’s most likely candidate.
Southgate will look to use Sterling’s directness to split open a stubborn Ukrainian defence and with the confidence of three goals already under his belt, there’s no reason why the forward cannot take another step toward individual greatness as well.
William Hill price Raheem Sterling at 7/1 to win the Euro 2020 Golden Boot and 11/2 to score last against Ukraine
5. Dominant England to set up semi-final clash with Czech Republic?
After the dizzying high of beating Germany, Southgate will be working extremely hard to keep his players grounded ahead of Saturday’s trip to Rome. Ukraine pushed the Netherlands all the way in the group stages and proved against Sweden they’re well equipped for a 12-round punch-up.
But this England side are mature beyond their years. They seem to care very little about the pressure of being favourites, nor the history of disappointment that has often accompanied the Three Lions in major tournaments. We might see a tough opening half but in the end, England should have the intelligence, patience and firepower to put Ukraine to bed.
Scoreline prediction: England 2-0 Ukraine (5/1 with William Hill)
Squawka’s predictions for Euro 2020’s other quarter-finals
- Switzerland 1-3 Spain: Switzerland were absolutely incredible in their penalty shootout win over France, coming from 3-1 down to take the world champions all the way through extra-time. But surely, lighting cannot strike twice? Spain endured a scare of their own against Croatia but displayed enough attacking prowess to prove they’re back on track at this tournament.
- Belgium 1-2 Italy: After wowing us all in the group stages, Italy were seriously put to the test against Austria in the Round of 16 but overcame their stubborn opponents 2-1 in extra-time. Roberto Mancini’s men displayed the will and luck of potential champions and although they’ll be underdogs against Belgium, they will fancy their chances. Especially given the Red Devils could be without Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard.
- Czech Republic 1-0 Denmark: Denmark are everyone’s favourite second team but after winning just once in the group stages, were quite lucky to reach the Round of 16. There, they hammered a Wales side that really didn’t turn up on the day. Armed with the extremely dangerous Patrik Schick and Tomas Soucek, the Czech Republic could shock the Danes here, setting up a tantalising semi-final clash with England.
- Squawka’s predicted Euro 2020 semi-finals: Spain vs Italy & England vs Czech Republic.