These two nations will be expected to progress to the knockout stages, so this meeting could play a key part in determining which side tops the group.
Netherlands bounced back from a disappointing 2-2 draw with Scotland in their first warm-up friendly by comfortably dispatching Georgia 3-0 last weekend.
Memphis Depay, who bagged a brace against the Scots, continued his fine goalscoring form by converting from the penalty spot in the 10th minute. The Lyon forward scored six goals in his last six games of the season in Ligue 1, and will carry much of his country’s attacking burden.
However, in Wout Weghorst, Depay appears to have a suitable strike partner. The Wolfsburg forward struck 20 times in the Bundesliga this season to help the Wolves qualify for the Champions League for the first time in five years, and the 6ft 6in striker finally opened his international account to double his side’s lead against Georgia.
19-year-old Ryan Gravenberch added further gloss to the victory, with Ronald de Boer surely tempted to start the teenager against Ukraine on Sunday. Should the Ajax midfielder receive enough game time throughout the tournament, he has the talent to establish himself as one of the young players of the tournament.
Ukraine, meanwhile, won both of their warm-up friendlies against Northern Ireland and Cyprus without conceding a goal.
Andriy Shevchenko‘s side had not kept a clean sheet in any of their six prior outings, so the former AC Milan striker will be relieved that his defence appear to be building a solid platform ahead of the tournament.
Having impressively topped their qualifying group ahead of Portugal and Serbia, anything short of progressing to the knockout stages for the first time in a European Championship would have to be considered a serious failure given that Group C is widely perceived as the weakest group at this summer’s tournament.
However, Ukraine have certainly not been handed an easy start with a trip to the Netherlands, so avoiding defeat may be seen as a positive step towards their primary aim of reaching the last 16.
De Boer suffered a major blow in the shape of Donny van de Beek‘s groin injury causing the Manchester United midfield to withdraw from the Netherlands squad, while goalkeeepr Jasper Cillessen will not be involved either after testing positive for COVID-19.
Given that Netherlands are already without Liverpool defender Virgil van Dijk due to the ACL injury he sustained against Everton last October, the spine of their team has been significantly weakened.
However, there is still plenty of talent remaining within their ranks, with De Boer seemingly intent on pairing Depay and Weghorst together in attack in a 3-5-2 system.
Gravenberch will compete with Marten de Roon for a place alongside Georginio Wijnaldum, who recently completed his switch to Paris Saint-Germain, and Frenkie De Jong in midfield, with the greater experience of the Atalanta man likely to see him win that battle.
Shevchenko, meanwhile, has a decision to make in terms of whether to match Netherlands’ formation, or persist with the 4-3-3 system, which he has used more recently.
Given that the 44-year-old utilised a three-man defence in their three World Cup qualifiers in March, which helped them gain an impressive 1-1 draw against France, we are inclined to believe that Shevchenko may opt to approach this game in a more cautious manner.
Manchester City’s Oleksandr Zinchenko plays in his preferred midfield position for his country as opposed to left-back, where he is generally deployed for the English champions.
Netherlands possible starting lineup:
Stekelenburg; Dumfries, De Ligt, De Vrij, Blind, Wijndal; De Roon, De Jong, Wijnaldum; Weghorst, Depay
Ukraine possible starting lineup:
Bushchan; Karavayev, Zabarnyi, Kryvtsov, Matviyenko, Mykolenko; Shaparenko, Sydorchuk, Zinchenko; Malinovskyi, Yaremchuk
We say: Netherlands 1-1 Ukraine
With both sides potentially deploying 3-5-2 formations, it is tough to envisage a classic at the Amsterdam ArenA on Sunday.
Ukraine’s last three competitive matches have all ended 1-1, so it would be no surprise to see a repeat of that scoreline, which in truth may suit both nations with potentially easier matches in the group to come.
Source: | This article originally belongs to Sportsmole.co.uk
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