Olympic Stadium, Kiev
10th September, 19:45 BST
Ukraine will host England in the crucial World Cup Qualifier clash at the Olympic Stadium, which can go a long way into deciding both the team’s fate in this group. England currently leads the table with 15 points and are the only undefeated side in Group H. Despite this, a loss at the hands of the host tonight can change the whole complexion of the group. Ukraine are just one point behind England in third place and have a chance to overtake them at the top of the table. It would be the ideal revenge for the side after the disappointment they suffered in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, when they finished second to England and were eventually knocked out by Greece in the play-off.
In the reverse fixture Ukraine came close to beating England at Wembley, and it took a late Frank Lampard penalty to salvage a draw for the host. England will have to face second placed Montenegro and Polland in the remaining two fixtures after this game, hence Roy Hodgson’s men might need to avoid defeat at Kiev to ensure their qualification.
The Yellow-Blues have made tremendous progress under the leadership of their manager Mykhaylo Fomenko since he was appointed in 2012. Ukraine haven’t conceded in their last four matches and have scored 15 goals during that period. In they have conceded only two goals in their last eight games.
They come into this game on the back of 9-0 hammering of minnows San Marino. Eight different Ukrainian player got on the score sheet in that game, including a brace from Khacheridi. Fomenko doesn’t have any injury concerns ahead of this fixture and is expected to field the same starting line-up in this game.
Fomenko, unlike his predecessors, is a coach with faith in modern tactics. Flexibility is a key for his side, and his side has already shown their organisation both in defence and in attack. Ukraine start off with a 4-2-3-1 formation with Marko Devic leading the line. Evgen Seleznyov drops in behind Devic and provides a lot of the creativity. But Ukraine’s main strength in attack comes from the wonderful two wingers on either side. Konoplyanka and the more well-known Andriy Yarmolenko can cause trouble to any full-backs on their day. Former Bayern Munich midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk provides the experience and defensive steel in the midfield, alongside Edmar.
Fomenko’s side uses two different formations while in attack, or when they have the possession of the ball, and while defending. Both Yarmolenko and Konoplyanka drops deep to help out the defence and forms a four man midfield, while Devic and Seleznyov presses from the front. Their formation almost changes to a organised 4-4-2 when they are defending. They press together as a team, and the fact that most of their attackers are quite young helps in achieving that.
Fomenko must believe that his rejuvenated side have a wonderful chance of beating England at home, which could go a long way into securing their place in Brazil next year.
Starting Line-Up (4-2-3-1) – Pyatov (GK); Shevchuk, Khacheridi, Rakitskiy, Fedetskiy; Edmar, Tymoshchuk; Konoplyanka, Seleznyov, Yarmolenko; Devic
Unlike Fomenko, Roy Hodgson has a long list of injuries to contain with ahead of this fixture. Glen Johnson, Wayne Rooney, Phil Jones, Daniel Sturridge and Steven Caulker will all miss this game with injuries. As if the list wasn’t big enough, they will also have to do without Welbeck due to suspension after he picked up an avoidable booking in their 4-0 win over Moldova.
England comfortable 4-0 win over Moldova meant they have achieved their first back-to-back victories since defeating Brazil and San Marino back in February and March. But worryingly for Hodgson England have always followed up their victory in the qualifiers so far with a draw in the next match – something which explains why this group is still so close despite them being unbeaten so far.
The Three Lions were expected to cruise past Moldova and they did just that with an assuring win. Rickie Lambart continued the amazing start to his international career with another goal and two brilliant assists. It was a convincing performance, but they know that they will face a much tougher challenge against Ukraine away from home.
Roy Hodgson will make only one change to the line-up that was fielded in their last game. Suspended Danny Welbeck will be replaced by Manchester City midfielder James Milner. Hodgson has already pointed out the importance of Milner’s experience in the side against a strong opponent like Ukraine.
England will once again start in their 4-3-3 formation. But during the game, this almost changes to a 4-2-3-1 with Wilshere moving ahead of Lampard and Gerrard. Milner might not have the flair you expect from a winger, but he will work hard for his side and is very capable defensively. His presence on the left wing could be crucial in containing Yarmolenko down that side. Though England’s right wing remains a worry as Walcott isn’t known for tracking back and this could expose the inexperienced Walker. One of the midfield trio will have to cover the space between Walcott and Walker, when England lose possession.
Starting Line-Up (4-3-3) – Hart (GK); Cole, Jagielka, Cahill, Walker; Lampard, Gerrard, Wilshere; Milner, Lambert, Walcott
Players to watch out for
Andriy Yarmolenko (Ukraine); Rickie Lambart (England)
Ukraine 1-0 England