Sweden and Ukraine square off against each other on Tuesday, eyeing a place in the quarter-finals of the UEFA Euro 2020.
Participating in the knockout rounds of the UEFA Euro 2020 for only the third time, Sweden will have an excellent opportunity to book their place in the quarter-finals of the competition as they take on Ukraine on Tuesday at Hampden Park in Glasgow.
The Swedes topped Group E with seven points on the board. They had started their campaign with a hard-fought draw with Spain before securing back-to-back wins over Slovakia and Poland.
The stark contrast between their approach over the game against Spain and the last two group games was remarkable, to say at the least. Fortunately for Janne Andersson’s men, a contest against Ukraine means they won’t have to change their approach too much, knowing they will be given the opportunity to play an attacking game.
In fact, no other side has faced as many shots on target as Ukraine in the competition so far. And despite securing just three points in Group C, Andriy Shevchenko’s men were lucky enough to sneak through to the knockout rounds as one of the four best third-placed teams.
Here, at The Hard Tackle, we will run the rule over these two sides ahead of their exciting match-up at Hampden Park this midweek.
Team News & Tactics
There is no doubt that Sweden will be allowed to express themselves going forward, given the lacklustre nature of the Ukrainian defence. However, the defence remains the strongest suit for Janne Andersson’s men, who conceded only two goals in the group stages.
The central defensive combination of Victor Lindelof and Marcus Danielson has worked wonderfully well. They will hope to keep their solidity intact, with additional support from the full-backs Mikael Lustig and Ludwig Augustinsson.
Augustinsson will be given more freedom going forward if required. His offensive runs will allow the eccentric Emil Forsberg to shift into central areas, where the RB Leipzig playmaker can partner up with the strikers.
In midfield, Sweden are more than likely to continue with the double-pivot with Kristoffer Olsson and Albin Ekdal. Additional coverage in the second line of press will be provided by Sebastian Larsson, who can effortlessly shift between a central and a wide role.
Andersson will have some key decisions to make further forward, with Dejan Kulusevski now back in contention. Alexander Isak remains a guaranteed starter as leader of the Swedish attacker, but alongside him, the 58-year-old might fancy deploying someone like Kulusevski.
However, the Juventus forward does not provide much physical prowess in the final third. As such, we expect Andersson to stick with Robin Quaison, with Kulusevski likely to be used as a super sub.
Probable Lineup (4-4-2): Olsen; Lustig, Lindelöf, Danielson, Augustinsson; Larsson, Ekdal, Olsson, Forsberg; Isak, Quaison
As far as Ukraine are concerned, their defeat against Austria highlighted several issues in the team. The incompetence of full-backs was perhaps the biggest problem, with neither Oleksandr Karavaev nor Vitaliy Mykolenko offering any real impact.
It could be problematic for Ukraine, knowing the quality of Sweden’s wide players, including the likes of Forsberg and Kulusevski. Karavaev and Mykolenko, therefore, need to step up their game as they look to provide support to the central defenders in Ilya Zabarnyi and Mykola Matvienko.
Midfield is Ukraine’s strongest suit, especially the creative department where players like Oleksandr Zinchenko, Mykola Shaparenko and Ruslan Malinovskiy can cause problems. Malinovskiy, though, might be deployed out wide in order to accommodate the defence-minded Sergiy Sydorchuk. The onus will be on him to screen the back-four as they look to contain the Swedish attack.
Speaking of attack, Malinovskiy should get the nod ahead of Viktor Sygankov out wide, while captain Andriy Yarmolenko is a guaranteed starter on the right. Ukraine do have a unique weapon going forward in Roman Yaremchuk.
The 25-year-old is unlike any of the strikers Sweden have faced so far. He is much more versatile and might drop deep, making it difficult for Lindelof and Danielson to man-mark him and neutralise him using their physical and aerial superiority.
Probable Lineup (4-1-4-1): Bushchan; Karavaev, Zabarnyi, Matvienko, Mykolenko; Sydorchuk; Yarmolenko, Shaparenko, Zinchenko, Malinovskyi; Yaremchuk
- This will be the fifth meeting between Sweden and Ukraine, with Sweden’s only victory coming in a friendly in August 2011 (D1 L2).
- The last meeting between Sweden and Ukraine was in Euro 2012, with Ukraine coming from behind to win 2-1 thanks to a brace from current manager Andriy Shevchenko.
- This is just Sweden’s third appearance in the knockout stages of the European Championship – they lost 3-2 against Germany in 1992 (semi-final) and lost to the Netherlands on penalties following a goalless draw in 2004 (quarter-final).
- Ukraine have lost seven of their last eight games at the European Championship, with their victory over North Macedonia enough to see them through to the last 16. This is only their second appearance in the knockout stages of a major tournament, after reaching round two of the 2006 FIFA World Cup.
- Of the teams to reach the last 16 at Euro 2020, no side faced more shots on target in the group stages than Ukraine (16, level with Wales).
Player in Focus
Alexander Isak (Sweden)
Alexander Isak is the undisputed key player for Sweden, having emerged as one of the best performers in the competition. His work rate upfront is simply incredible. The youngster can also beat players at will, which combines well with his pace, making him a lethal weapon, especially on the counter.
Such qualities will prove to be key against a Ukraine team that do like to pour men forward. It should leave certain gaps in the defence, making it easier for Isak to make incisive runs in and around the backline. It will also be interesting to see how the youngster links up with fellow attackers in Forsberg and Kulusevski.
Andriy Yarmolenko (Ukraine)
Andriy Yarmolenko has always been sort of a hit or miss player for both club and country. However, he does have a stellar record with the Ukrainian national team, scoring 42 goals in 97 appearances. It automatically makes him the most important attacker in a side that is brimming with attacking talents.
From a tactical perspective, Yarmolenko is a very one-dimensional winger. He generally likes to cut inside and have an attempt at goal. The former Dortmund winger notably scored a wondergoal in the opening game and will hope to replicate something similar this time out.
Sweden 2-1 Ukraine
This is going to be a closely fought encounter, given the well-matched nature of the two sides. Sweden, though, are slight favourites as they are the more balanced side and are particularly known for their resolute defending.
On the attacking front, the return of Dejan Kulusevski should offer that additional oomph going forward, whereas Ukraine are likely to struggle in the final third. As such, we are expecting a narrow win for the Swedes.