Ukraine and Northern Ireland both started off this year’s European Championships with disappointing, though expected, losses. Ukraine ended up 2-0 losers at the hands of Germany, while Northern Ireland saw a momentary mental lapse result in Poland walking away with all 3 points.
All things considered, anything less than 3 points for either of these two teams will result in an early exit from this summer’s tournament. Even with a victory, both sides will still have a tough time making it out of what is admittedly a very strong group.
Match Analysis for Ukraine/N. Ireland
There is no point to breaking this match down by which side is stronger throughout all 3 areas of the pitch because Ukraine is flat-out the stronger of the two sides. Northern Ireland may have only lost 1-0 to Poland, but that scoreline is deceiving because it easily could have been a 2-0 or 3-0 final. The Northern Irish were outmatched in every area of the pitch and saw very limited spells in possession of the ball.
Ukraine operates in much the same way as the Poles do, and I anticipate that we will see much of the same as the Northern Irish play their second match of the tournament.
Ukraine, though they lost by multiple goals, realistically put forth a solid effort on Sunday and had a chance to take a first half lead. An insane goal line clearance on the part of Jerome Boateng prevented Ukraine from getting on the score sheet first, and then only moments later the defending world champions took a lead that would prove to be insurmountable. Another goal was added later by team leader Bastian Schweinsteiger and the result was set in stone.
Ukraine will be looking to fire home early in their match on Thursday mostly because they need to undo what is now a -2 goal differential. Ukraine, being the far and away better attacking side, will come out firing and likely dominate this match. In reality, this is the only plan that Ukraine can pursue because a one-goal margin of victory will still see Ukraine on the outside looking in as far as advancing out of the group stages is concerned.
Final Prediction for Ukraine/N. Ireland
Sitting at -180 on the moneyline, Ukraine are the out and out favorites and I think they will easily emerge victorious. Northern Ireland are +575 and deservedly so, because they are one of the weakest sides in their group and the tournament. At the end of the day, Ukraine will walk away 3-0 victors.