On November 20, the Ukrainian national team in Leverkusen, Germany, will play the last match of the group tournament as part of the qualification for Euro 2024 – against the current champions of the continent. And it so happened that this match would be decisive for both our team and the Italians.
Rebrov’s team prepared for the match at the Bay Arena in Gdansk, Poland. The training camp began a week before the fight – November 13.
On the same day, the “blue-yellows” held an evening training session. Some players worked out on the football field, and some in the gym.
The next day, the Ukrainian national team gathered in full force – Dynamo representatives arrived at its location. The training session was also completed in full.
The culmination of the “blue-yellows” preparations in Gdansk was a control match against the local Lechia. Much has been said previously about the advisability of this sparring. And the main leitmotif of these statements is that our team does not need a friendly match at this stage.
But it happened.
All the highlights of the match are available in Live mode on Telegram Sport.ua
In the game against Lechia, for which, by the way, three Ukrainians play – Sarnavsky, Khlan and Zhelizko – Sergei Rebrov saw almost all of his players in action.
Since the game allowed opponents to make ten substitutions at once, the Ukrainian national team played the match with almost different lineups in the first and second halves.
Most likely, those players who appeared on the field after the break will be in the starting lineup against Squadra Azzurra. The question is, perhaps, the position of the right back – Tymchik, Konoplya or Karavaev.
And the match itself against Lechia was held with the advantage of the Ukrainians, which was reflected in the final score – 2:0. Pikhalyonok (in the middle of the first half) and Nazarina (at the beginning of the second half) scored goals.
I would like to hope that in this match, which, as promised, took place “behind closed doors,” Sergei Rebrov saw what he would like to see in the game against Spalletti’s team.
It’s also good that after the game with the team from Gdansk there were no injuries or injuries in our team.
The day after the game with Lechia, our national team held another training session, and on November 18 they left for Germany. Our delegation arrived in Leverkusen in transit through Cologne.
The Ukrainian national team held one official training session on the Bay Arena field. After which – “the game of our whole lives,” – this is how one of the leaders of the Ukrainian national team, Alexander Zinchenko, described the match against the European champions.
Getty Images/Global Images Ukraine Italy
Unlike our team, which is destined for only one match in the November game cycle, Squadra Azzurra played one more official match before the game at the Bay Arena – against the national team of North Macedonia.
The first match against this Balkan team as part of the qualification for Euro 2024 was the debut for current Squadra coach Luciano Spalletti. The former head coach of Napoli, who unexpectedly decided to take a year-long sabbatical, was urgently called up to the banner of the national team after Roberto Mancini’s demarche.
On a difficult field in Skopje, the Italians drew with the hosts – 1:1.
But already in the game against Ukraine, the Italian team looked much better – and achieved a logical victory, albeit a minimal one.
After the expected victory over Malta (4:0), the Italians regained clear prospects in the fight for second place in the group. But the away match against England ended in defeat for them (1:3). And after victories over North Macedonia and Malta, our national team was already in second place in the group.
However, before the head-on game with the Ukrainians, Italy had a fight in reserve against the same inconvenient Macedonians. There was hope that this time “Squadra” would stumble.
Alas, I didn’t stumble. Before the game, Spalletti said that he wanted to see the Italian national team better than before this match. And the current European champion, although not without problems, confirmed his status: a confident victory 5:2.
Italy and Ukraine are again level on points, but due to the advantage in head-to-head matches in the game in Leverkusen, the nominal guests will be satisfied with a draw, while the nominal hosts definitely need a victory to take second place in the group and qualify directly for the Euro.
The legendary ex-coach of the Italian national team Arrigo Sacchi urges his compatriots against the temptation to play for a draw. “If we play for a draw, we will definitely lose,” sums up the Maestro. According to him, Italy needs to attack and control the opponent.
It seems that the vulnerability of the position to play for a draw is felt not only from the outside, but also in the camp of the Italian national team. Almost all pre-match interviews of Squadra players are imbued with the desire to play to win. Therefore, we can safely assume that Spalletti’s charges will definitely not play “full legs”.
If any opponent can be considered inconvenient for the Ukrainian team, it is, first of all, the Italian team. The opponents have already played nine matches, and the Ukrainian team has not won yet. Moreover, the Italians invariably won in all official matches. They have seven victories to their name. Draws were recorded in two control matches.
The first match between the rivals in the qualification for Euro 2024, which took place at San Siro, ended in a victory for the hosts – 2:1.
Forecast for the confrontation
There is a lot against us – statistics, history, the status of the opponent. What are the statistics, if the head of UEFA Ceferin himself blabbed on the eve of the Leverkusen match that, they say, the European Championship without Italy is nonsense, and that Italy must definitely defeat Ukraine.
And it’s good that the main football functionary of the continent does not know how to keep his mouth shut. Good because we saw who is who. Our guys probably read/heard his words. Therefore, they will be angrier. And stronger.
Maybe it’s really good that our national team does not have an alternate airfield in the form of a draw to win a direct ticket to Euro 2024. This means that you need to not look back, and, as Zinchenko said, “play the match of your life.”
And for this we have all the prerequisites: motivation, excellent form, especially of our “legionnaires”, certain personnel problems of the opponent associated with injuries and betting.
If the Ukrainian national team can give their best game this year, then they will be able to win.
Not least for patriotic reasons, we recommend betting on a minimal victory for the Ukrainian national team.
But if, suddenly, for some reason, the “blue-yellows” fail to win, and they finish in third place in the group, “all is lost” will not be there either. Serbia did not lose to Bulgaria, which means that the Ukrainian team still has a chance to make it to Euro 2024. Now through the playoffs.
Ukraine: Trubin, Tymchik, Matvienko, Zabarny, Mikolenko, Stepanenko, Sudakov, Zinchenko, Tsygankov, Mudrik, Dovbik
Italy: Donnarumma, Dimarco, Acerbi, Gatti, Darmian, Frattesi, Jorginho, Barella, Chiesa, Raspadori, El Shaarawy.
November 20, Monday
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