Sweden’s defender Victor Lindelof (C) heads the ball during the UEFA EURO 2020 Group E football match between Sweden and Poland. Photo: AFP
As tournament dark horses go, look no further than these two (Sweden and Ukraine) ahead of their encounter in Glasgow.
Sweden turned heads with their opening draw against Spain, and they underlined their quality by defeating Slovakia and Poland to go through as Group E winners.
Among the only unbeaten teams left in the tournament, the Scandinavians are well-organised at the back and dangerous up front, spearheaded by three-goal forward Emil Forsberg.
Ukraine have a couple of high achievers in attack too, with Roman Yaremchuk and Andriy Yarmolenko each plundering two goals.
Andriy Shevchenko’s side squeezed through as one of the best third-placed teams following two defeats and one win in Group C, but their eye-catching – if ultimately unsuccessful – fightback against the Netherlands showed that they can be a real handful on their day.
Ahead of the game at Hampden Park, Sweden are currently on an eight-game unbeaten run in 2021, the only draw in that sequence having come in their opening fixture against Spain.
The Ukrainians ranked 24th in the world will now attempt to bite the hand that fed them, when the pair battle for the right to meet either England or Germany in the last eight.
The only previous competitive meeting between the two nations carries a special place in Ukrainian hearts, as they marked their Euros debut with a 2-1 win against the Blagult in Kiev at Euro 2012.
On that emotional night at the Olympiyskiy, two icons went head-to-head, as Ibrahimovic struck first for the Swedes, while Shevchenko leveled just three minutes later, before netting a 62nd-minute winner.
However, Ukraine failed to progress from their group on that occasion – and in 2016 they lost each of their three games – so this current outfit have now stumbled onto new ground for a proud football nation.
If they are to take advantage of their good fortune on Tuesday, Shevchenko’s men will again rely on the talents of Atalanta sharp-shooter Ruslan Malinovskyi and their vastly experienced creator-in-chief, Andriy Yarmolenko, whose two goals and one assist so far have helped him to surpass ‘Sheva’ as the national record-holder for goal involvements: his overall tallies now standing at 42 goals and 21 assists.
Source: Nigerian Newspapers Online