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England vs Ukraine: Euro 2020 quarter-final – what threat will Ukraine pose in Rome?

Dates: 11 June-11 July. Venues: Amsterdam, Baku, Bucharest, Budapest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, London, Munich, Rome, Seville, St-Petersburg. Coverage: Live on BBC TV, BBC Radio 5 Live, iPlayer and the BBC Sport website and app. Click here for more details

The idea that England have a favourable route – on paper, at least – to the Euro 2020 final is undeniable, but one thing this summer’s finals has taught us already is not to rule out the underdog.

Ukraine stand in the way of Gareth Southgate’s men in Saturday’s quarter-final tie in Rome – 20:00 BST kick-off live across the BBC – with a potential meeting with the Czech Republic or Denmark to come at the semi-final stage.

Managed by one of their greatest players – and 2004 Ballon d’Or winner – Andriy Shevchenko, they have already made their own European Championship history by reaching this stage for the first time.

But just how much of a threat do the Ukrainians pose to England? And could Shevchenko’s side add to the list of tournament shocks at this summer’s finals?

What is Ukraine’s recent form?

Ukraine reached their first quarter-final of a major tournament since 2006 – and their first at a Euros – thanks to a last-gasp extra-time winner against Sweden.

That came after they squeezed out of their group as the last third-placed qualifier on three points – their 2-1 victory over North Macedonia being sandwiched between a thrilling 3-2 defeat by the Netherlands and a 1-0 loss against Austria.

Ranked 24th in the world, Ukraine have beaten England just once in seven attempts, a 1-0 World Cup qualifying success in 2009.

Of the other six games, England have won four, including a 1-0 victory in the group stage of Euro 2012, Wayne Rooney scoring the decisive goal.

Their most recent meetings came in qualifying for the 2014 World Cup, with Frank Lampard scoring an 87th-minute penalty to rescue a 1-1 draw at Wembley in September 2012, while the return fixture a year later ended goalless.

Shevchenko’s side currently sit second in their World Cup qualifying group, with three points from three games, after draws against France, Finland and Kazakhstan this year.

Yarmolenk-oh no? – the danger men

Ukraine’s biggest threat comes in the form of West Ham United’s Andriy Yarmolenko.

Shevchenko, though, will have a nervous wait to see if his main man is fit for Saturday as Yarmolenko – who has suffered with injuries throughout his career – was forced to come off in the first half of extra-time in the last-16 win in Glasgow.

Despite making just 15 league appearances for David Moyes’ side last season, the 31-year-old has caught the eye at the finals, scoring twice and registering an assist in Ukraine’s three group games.

The former Borussia Dortmund attacker took his form into the knockout phase, shining at Hampden by making three key passes – the most out of anyone on the pitch – including a delightful assist for Oleksandr Zinchenko’s opening goal.

That saw Yarmolenko’s goal involvements at major tournaments rise to five, the joint-most of any Ukrainian player, along with current manager Shevchenko.

If England opt to play a 3-4-3 against Ukraine, Yarmolenko’s (number seven) positioning off the right could be key to Shevchenko’s side getting joy in attack

England will also be familiar with Yarmolenko’s team-mate Zinchenko.

The Ukraine captain and Manchester City man was integral at left wing-back against the Swedes, smashing home the opener before curling in an inch-perfect ball for Artem Dovbyk to head home the dramatic winner.

On the opposite flank, Dynamo Kyiv’s Oleksandr Karavayev provided a threat and constant running from the right.

Playing as part of a back three against Sweden, Shakhtar Donetsk’s Mykola Matviyenko – linked with a move to the Premier League – was key in both defence and building attacks.

The 25-year-old had the most touches (128) and successful passes (100) at Hampden, and no player was able to match his tally of six clearances and eight possession gains.

Another player to watch is striker Roman Yaremchuk. He scored four times to help Ukraine qualify for Euro 2020 and has notched 47 goals for Belgian side Gent in the last four seasons.

England will be left guessing as to how Ukraine will set up for the tie, having switched to a 3-5-2 formation for the first time in the tournament in their last-16 win against Sweden. Previously they had stuck to a 4-3-3.

Gareth Southgate opted to match up Germany’s 3-4-3 formation on Tuesday, so will the England boss be tempted to switch the way he sets up his side again?

‘A free hit for Ukraine’

Ukraine football expert Adam Bates told BBC Radio 5 Live: “Everyone is over the moon, absolutely buzzing. The game against England is a free hit for the national team. Expectations were to get out of the group, it has been a record-breaking Euros already and whatever happens everyone will be very proud of the team.

“Win, lose or draw, we just want to perform. All the pressure will be on England and none on Ukraine. Who knows? Stranger stories have already happened this tournament.”

BBC World’s Mani Djazmi: “Ukraine have suffered from Covid-19. In 2020 the team doctor, Anton Khudaev, died from the virus and after the entire squad went into quarantine in November, Uefa cancelled a Nations League match against Switzerland.

“In October, several players who are likely to face England – goalkeeper Georgi Buschan, centre-back Illia Zabarnyi and midfielder Aleksandr Zuvkov – were drafted in to make up the numbers in a 7-1 thrashing by France.

B”ut their spirit in that match and in a 1-0 win over Spain just six days later established their places in the team.”

What are the Ukrainians saying?

Coach Andriy Shevchenko: “I am happy because at this stage of the tournament you have to give more than 100% and what I saw from my players they really tried and played with heart.

“My message to the players was to believe. We are here and this is our chance to change the future and we did it. England are a great team, a lot of great players and a great manager. It will be a hard game for us.”

Captain Oleksandr Zinchenko: “We are writing history. I would like to thank the supporters during the Sweden game. After the first three games we deserved criticism but we came back and did what we wanted.

“England are showing some class in this competition with a lot of superstars on the field. I would love to see my [Manchester City] team-mates as soon as possible because I miss them.”

‘The entire country is proud of you’ – how Ukraine reacted

“We rooted for you wholeheartedly! We thank you from the bottom of our heart! The entire country is proud of you!” President Volodymyr Zelensky posted on Facebook.

“What a game of two blue and yellow teams in the hospitable UK. In the end, it is all for the love of football,” said Ukrainian ambassador to the UK Vadym Prystayko.

Former world heavyweight boxing champion Vitaliy Klitschko, now Kyiv mayor, congratulated the national team and fans on the win, noting that the Ukrainian footballers “showed real will to win”. “Glory to the heroes!” Klitschko added.

“The Cossacks are tougher than the Vikings,” said businessman Dmytro Shymkiv

In a post on Facebook, journalist Vitaliy Sych wrote: “England do not have a 100% chance of beating Ukraine in Rome.”

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