Euro 2020 Group C match preview: Ukraine and Austria close in round of 16
Bucharest: Ukraine and Austria each have one win and one loss so far at the European Championship, and they will face each other today, both looking to advance to the group stage for the first time of the tournament.
For both teams, the forwards provided history at Euro 2020.
Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk each scored one goal for Ukraine in the team’s opener, then scored one goal each in the second as well. These games are now a thing of the past.
“The most difficult game awaits us in the next round,” said Yarmolenko.
Despite the goals, Ukrainian coach Andriy Shevchenko’s concern in the previous game was that his side hadn’t scored more, given the many chances created by his players.
Ruslan Malinovskyi, for example, had the opportunity to put the game against North Macedonia out of reach with an 84th-minute penalty awarded after a handball. But the Atalanta midfielder casually ran and placed an upward shot which goalkeeper Stole Dimitrievski easily saved.
“If we had only drawn, I would be very upset,” Malinovskii said of the 2-1 victory.
Austria scored three goals in the first win over North Macedonia, but was later shut out against the Netherlands. The team had to play the second game without a suspended Marko Arnautovic who scored 27 international goals for Austria.
Arnautovic will return against Ukraine after serving a one-match suspension for insulting a North Macedonian opponent after scoring at the end of the 3-1 victory.
Both teams have already played at the European Championship twice, and both have also been recent co-hosts. Austria hosted Euro 2008 with Switzerland but still came out in the group stage. Ukraine did the same as co-host with Poland at Euro 2012.
But that was back when the continental tournament still had 16 teams, with only the top two teams from each of the four groups advancing to the quarter-finals.
Today there are 24 teams in the tournament and the top four third-place teams in the six groups advance to the round of 16, which means twice as many teams come out of the group stage.
In 2016, when the new 24-team format was introduced, four points were enough for third-place teams to advance. Portugal and Northern Ireland, future champions, even advanced with three points, but Albania and Turkey were eliminated with the same amount.
So while a second win will secure advancement for one of the teams, a draw might be enough for both.