MARTIN KEOWN: England should have too much firepower for Ukraine

KEOWN TALKS TACTICS: England should have too much firepower for Ukraine if they play with confidence in possession… but the Three Lions have to protect their full backs against Andriy Shevchenko’s athletes

  • Ukraine are dangerous despite being the lowest ranked of the third-placed sides 
  • Andriy Shevchenko’s men are a threat on the counter and leave you exhausted 
  • England will have to manage their workloads and protect their full-backs
  • But if they can work the ball to their forwards they should overwhelm Ukraine 
  • Find out the latest Euro 2020 news including fixtures, live action and results here

Ukraine were using 4-3-3 at this tournament but then, like England against Germany, they switched to a back three for their last 16 game against Sweden. In doing that, manager Andriy Shevchenko dropped one of his best players, Ruslan Malinovskyi.

That proved a worthwhile sacrifice. Ukraine showed that the strength of their team is better than any one individual, as the new system gave Shevchenko’s players a better chance at being successful. 

That includes Oleksandr Zinchenko. The Manchester City man was one of seven Ukrainian left-footers used in the final group game against Austria, playing as part of a midfield three.

Ukraine rose to the occasion, showing real togetherness to overcome Sweden at the Euros

That set-up lacked rhythm and direction as the players did not seem comfortable in their positions. But Shevchenko’s 3-5-2 system saw Zinchenko move to left wing-back, where he scored and produced the perfect cross to assist their late winner against Sweden. On the opposite side is Oleksandr Karavayev, the right wing-back, an incredible athlete.   

This is what England will face down their flanks tonight. Gareth Southgate is expected to revert to a back four, potentially using Kyle Walker and Luke Shaw at right back and left back respectively. 

If that happens, England need to be mindful of their workloads. Watching from the gantry at Hampden Park on Tuesday night, I could see the distances that Sweden’s full backs Mikael Lustig and Ludwig Augustinsson were having to cover. 

Andriy Shevchenko’s men are a threat on the counter attack, and England have to be careful

Gareth Southgate will have to manage his full-backs, including Luke Shaw, on Saturday night

They even had to be substituted together after 83 minutes. Lustig and Augustinsson were exhausted because when they attacked, they sprinted forward to create extra width so that Sweden’s wingers Sebastian Larsson and Emil Forsberg could come inside.

This offered no defensive protection for a counter-attack against Ukraine and meant the full backs had to race back the length of the pitch to recover. England will need to offer much better protection for their full backs tonight.


Ukraine were the lowest-ranked of the third-placed teams to qualify for the knockout stages but they have some good technicians. 

Mykola Shaparenko can pick a pass if given time, with the midfielder producing a pinpoint 30-yard ball to the right wing in the build-up to their opening goal against Sweden. 

While Taras Stepanenko and Serhiy Sydorchuk sit in midfield, Shaparenko is given freedom to roam and he will join the forwards from deep. Up front, Andriy Yarmolenko is getting fitter with each match.   

They may be the worst team to finish third in the groups but Ukraine have good technical players like Mykola Shaparenko

He may have only started one Premier League game for West Ham last season, but he has got two goals at this tournament and showed excellent technique in assisting Zinchenko with the outside of his left foot. 

England’s centre backs need to ensure Yarmolenko is not given time and space around the box. 

His strike partner Roman Yaremchuk is a direct runner who will roll you if you get too tight, and they have got promising 18-year-old centre back Illya Zabarnyi in defence.

Ukraine only became full members of FIFA and UEFA in 1992. They are playing under their most successful player in Shevchenko, who is worshipped by his players. Every member of this Ukrainian team plays with an enormous sense of pride and passion. It will have taken a lot out of them to go toe to toe with Sweden for 120 minutes. But they will not go down easily against England. 

Ukraine play with immense pride and Andriy Yarmolenko will be a menace in the box


It could be that Southgate reverts to the starting line-up who faced the Czech Republic — with one exception. 

Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips are on yellows, as are Harry Maguire and Phil Foden, so they risk suspension for the semi-final. Southgate could replace Rice or Phillips with Jordan Henderson, Mason Mount or Jude Bellingham.With Phillips having played every minute so far, he could be rested and Mount come in.

England looked cautious in possession against Germany at times. But they should now be bristling with confidence and I expect them to move the ball better through midfield and into the front players. 

With Harry Kane staying high and central, Bukayo Saka, Jack Grealish and Raheem Sterling can control the game along with their supporting full backs. This would surely create too much firepower for Ukraine to handle.

If England are smart in possession and work the ball into their forwards, they will have too much for Ukraine 

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