Both losers in week 1 of the Euro 2016 Group Stages, Ukraine and Northern Ireland will be looking at this game as a must win. If they're to challenge Germany and Poland for qualification, then they both need to win this game. If they draw, then they could be handing the qualifying place to Poland so there is a lot to play for here and I fancy Ukraine to take advantage.
Ukraine played World Champions Germany in the last game and ended up on the wrong end of a 2-0 scoreline but that didn't tell the whole story. Yarmolenko and Konoplyanka (as predicted by us) put together some brilliant moves and the latter was unlucky to be flagged offside after Ukraine put the ball in the back of the net. Yes Germany were the better side and their quality showed as the game wore on, however Ukraine gave them an almighty scare and not too many people would have begrudged them a draw after the game.
Northern Ireland were beaten 1-0 by the Poles but in all honesty it could have been more. Don't get me wrong Northern Ireland defended resolutely and put a lot of effort into the game, however they were always on the back foot and did not offer a lot in terms of an attacking threat whatsoever. Poland produced a few chances but we're not clinical enough and that's why Northern Ireland got away with it to a certain extent.
Northern Ireland will need to step their game up against Ukraine but I have serious doubts about their quality and I think the fact that Ukraine actually gave the Germans a tough game shows that they can have moments of real quality. Yarmolenko and Konoplyanka will cause some serious issues for the Northern Irish and I just can't see them being able to stem the tide.
Ukraine impressed me in their last game and Northern Ireland simply did not. I fear the finals are a step too far for Michael O'Neills men and Ukraine will dominate them pace wise and possession wise. I don't think it will be decided by a solitary goal either. Ukraine showed against Germany that they possess a real attacking threat and can counter attack with pace and vigour, both flanks have top quality players and even though Zozulya hasn't hit double figures in a single season, he is still a decent quality striker that knows where the goal is.
We haven't had a high scoring competition thus far but if Ukraine get into their stride this could easily be 3-0. This is an outside punt remember so don't be piling on a load of cash but its certainly worth a couple of quid.
I'm sorry Northern Ireland fans, I hate to write off a Home Nation but I can't see where the goals will come from and I can't see Ukraine not being able to score. If they play as they did against Germany it will be curtains early on and we could even see a spectacular goal. Konoplyanka and Yarmolenko on either flank will prove too much, especially for makeshift left back Shane Ferguson who couldn't even lace up Yarmolenko's boots.
I think Ukraine will take control early on and take the game to Northern Ireland, the only hope Northern Ireland have is if they can either get an early goal themselves and defend or defend until late on and try and nick it. Can't see that happening though in all honesty and I think the smart money is on Ukraine for both halves.
Yarmolenko scored 6 goals in qualifying and almost bagged against Germany, he is a top quality player that should be playing for a better club than Dynamo Kiev - attitude problem maybe? I don't think Shane Ferguson is going to be able to stop him cutting inside and wreaking havoc in the Northern Ireland box. He is Ukraine's biggest goal scoring threat and I fancy him to get the first goal.
Northern Ireland looked so toothless in attack in the last game against Poland and if they play like that again against Ukraine, they wont score. Kyle Lafferty was so isolated that he tried an overhead kick from 30 yards! Pyatov has been slated in goal for Ukraine recently but he is still Shakhtar's number 1 and has proven his quality at club level for a long time, I think it's just a blip to be honest and I fancy Pyatov to show his quality this tournament, starting with a clean sheet against Northern Ireland.