Ukraine v Northern Ireland
Friday June 17, 2:00am
Ukraine put together a four game winning streak in the build up to this tournament, with three of those wins coming against other qualified nations, so they should be confident despite their opening loss to Germany. Their record since 2013 against teams we had ranked below them is certainly impressive, as they’ve won 21 and lost just one of 27 matches. That includes a W13-D2-L1 record in competitive matches with 10 wins to nil, and a W7-D2-L1 record against teams ranked 40th-90th when again including friendlies, of which seven had fewer than three goals.
That under-goals stat looks particularly pertinent here, with Northern Ireland likely to sit back and prioritise protecting their clean sheet. They certainly didn’t show much attacking flair in their opening game as they failed to register a single shot on target. Nevertheless, it took a good Polish attack until the second half to unlock their defence and they’ve not conceded more than once in their last 14 matches.
Ukraine don’t have the same quality of forwards as Poland so Michael O’Neill will hope his side can frustrate their opponents here even longer. 15 of O’Neill’s 21 competitive games in charge have had fewer than three goals so they are a team that know their limitations but they should also be relatively confident as they came into this tournament on a 12 game unbeaten streak.
Since 1990 we have 66 matches from Euros, World Cups and Copa Americas where a team ranked 15th-30th has been playing a team 20-60 places below them in our rankings and these games have a very high ‘unders’ rate, with 71% having fewer than three goals.
Both sides are defensive by nature and while Ukraine are clearly the superior side they look a touch short in the match odds. In a game that looks short of goals all of the half-time 0-0 and Under 1.5 or 2.5 markets look to offer some value. These sides haven’t met since the qualifying campaign for Euro 2004 when they played out nil-nils both home and away, and while that has no impact here it appears little has changed in what we might expect from this encounter.
BACK – Half-Time 0-0 at 2.62