Excitement is building in England after their Euro 2020 last-16 win over Germany, a result which left them with a theoretically favourable path to the final as they look to win a first major tournament since 1966.
However, Ukraine, who stand in their way in Saturday’s quarter-final in Rome, are hoping to pull off a shock victory and advance to the last four of a major competition for the first time since the break-up of the Soviet Union.
Oleksandr Zinchenko said Ukraine will need to play the “game of their lives” to beat England in Saturday’s Euro 2020 quarter-final in Rome.
The Manchester City player scored and then set up Artem Dovbyk’s last-gasp winner as Ukraine beat Sweden 2-1 after extra time in the last 16.
Ukraine have matched their run to the last eight of the 2006 World Cup, when coach Andriy Shevchenko was the team’s star striker, and hope to reach a first semi-final at a major tournament.
Zinchenko could come up against a number of his City team-mates at the Stadio Olimpico, including Raheem Sterling who has scored three of England’s four goals so far.
The Manchester City star is already playing in his fourth major tournament but his talent, until now, had not been fully appreciated by the England support.
A precocious young player when England crashed out at the group stage of the 2014 World Cup, Sterling was one of the fall guys two years later as Roy Hodgson’s side exited Euro 2016 in embarrassing fashion against Iceland.
At just 26, he is a senior figure in a youthful England squad with 65 caps already to his name and represents fearlessness and social conscience that have made Gareth Southgate’s side respected on and off the field.
Ukraine scraped through to the knockout phase as the lowest-ranked of the four third-placed teams to advance, having lost two of their three group games to the Netherlands and Austria.
England on the other hand have won three out of their four matches so far without conceding a single goal.
The reward for another victory this time in Rome will be a semi-final and a potential final at Wembley. England will not get a better chance to end their long wait for silverware but a stern test awaits them in Rome.
Who’s saying what?
Oleksandr Zinchenko, Ukraine defender
“We will try to surprise them. Of course, we realise that to get through everyone will probably need to play the best game of their lives. The fact that England haven’t conceded a goal yet... they’ve played very well in defence but I think there are no perfect teams, every team has weaknesses.”
Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine head coach
“We fully understand who we will be playing against tomorrow. I think (England) are one of the best teams, and at this Euro one of the most balanced teams. They have amazing players. Tomorrow will be the hardest game for us. I know how difficult it will be for us, but I know our players have character and we’ll try to show it.”
Jordan Pickford, England goalkeeper
“There would be nothing better for me than to win a medal with England. The personal stuff, that takes care of itself. But to win a major trophy with England would be the pinnacle.”
Gareth Southgate, England head coach
“It’s a dangerous moment for us. We’ll have that warmth of success and the feeling around the country that we’ve only got to turn up to win the thing. We know it’s going to be an immense challenge from here on. I think the players know that.”
Ukraine vs England H2H
Stats and Trivia
• Ukraine have won only one of their seven matches against England (D2 L4), those four defeats including the sides’ only previous European Championship contest with Wayne Rooney scoring the only goal at Donetsk’s Donbass Arena in the group stage of Euro 2012 to send England into the quarter-finals and knock Ukraine out. Andriy Pyatov and Andriy Yarmolenko played 90 minutes for Ukraine; current coach Andriy Shevchenko was a second-half substitute.
• Having never featured in a European Championship before co-hosting the 2012 edition with Poland, this is Ukraine’s third successive appearance in the final tournament and first qualification for the knockout phase.
• England have won only two of their five Euro quarter-finals, both against Spain – in 1968 (1-0 h, 2-1 a) and 1996 (0-0, 4-2 pens). They lost to West Germany in 1972 (1-3 h, 0-0 a) and against Portugal (2004) and Italy (2012), both on penalties.
• Ukraine remained unbeaten in qualifying, winning six and drawing two. They were one of five sides to not lose a game in the Euro 2020 preliminaries, along with Belgium, Italy – who both won all their fixtures – Spain and Denmark.
• The defeat by Iceland in the last 16 at Euro 2016 is England’s only reverse in 15 EURO finals matches (W8 D6), with the quarter-final eliminations on penalties by Italy (2012) and Portugal (2004) counted as draws.
• Current England head coach Gareth Southgate and Shevchenko were on opposing sides in the first meeting between the teams, a 2-0 England friendly win at Wembley on 31 May 2000.
With AFP and Uefa inputs
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