Leading up to the game, many thought Ukraine vs. Sweden would be Monday’s undercard with England and France doing battle earlier on in the day. To still say this would be disrespectful to either team, as a scintillating second half saw 3 goals inside 10 minutes. Ukraine were somewhat of an unknown entity coming into this tournament, and many doubted them against Sweden . They hadn’t played a competitive fixture in over 2 years, many thought their brightest sparks were too old and they had never qualified for the European Championship since their independence from the USSR. Co-hosts Ukraine certainly hushed naysayers beating Sweden 2 – 1, approaching the game with a free-flowing, attacking style of football drilled home by former Ballon d’Or winner and Ukraine coach Oleh Blokhin.
Ukraine Formation and Style of Play
Ukraine’s formation was 4-2-3-1 and their starting lineup is displayed below.
Ukraine’s style of play was very attacking, with both full-backs Gusev and Selin playing a lot of pass of move football inside Sweden’s half, outnumbering the Swedish midfield. Ukraine appeared to be very patient in attack willing to keep the ball and go back to the defence if nothing was on. Voronin’s movement and willingness to come deep and act as a further midfielder enabled Ukraine to dominant periods of the game with high possession and pass completion percentage. Ukraine often tried to stretch the pitch to great effect with wingers Konoplyanka and Yarmolenko hugging the touchline, this gave Tymoshchuk the ability to spread the ball wide from left to right until an opening appeared. Ukraine’s legendary forward Andriy Shevchenko played very high up the pitch, working both centre-halves, feeding on play mainly distributed to him from the wings.
The start of the match was very cagey, with both teams trying to establish themselves within the game leading to a dull spectacle for the opening 20 minutes which mainly consisted of both teams trying to win the midfield battle. This cagey start was highlighted in the 17th minute. Mikhalik was sucked out to right back and was unable to stop Ibrahimovic whipping in a testing ball which was punched awfully by Pyatov and eventually cleared by centre-back Khacheridi afer the ball deflected around the 6 yard box.
Ukraine’s first real sight of goal came in the 23rd minute when a header clear by Khacheridi was cleverly chested down by Yarmolenko to Voronin who broke extremely quickly in to Sweden’s half on a blistering counter attack. This move ended with a 1-2 between Yarmolenko and Shevchenko which cut open the Swedish defence and an unfortunate scuffed shot went to the left of Isaksson’s goal. The move consisted of 5 touches in 15 seconds and optimised Ukraine’s pace and creativity.
31st minute – half time
This period started with an unconvincing save from Pyatov who looks to be a possible chink in the Ukraine armour. After this save, Ukraine started to play with fluidity and creativity and completed dominated this period of the game. This is reiterated below.
The figure above shows how the Ukraine dominated this period of the game. Ukraine had 5 shots on goal totalling 38% of overall shots which is a substantial percentage for a ~15 minute window. This dominance is further reinforced by the number of passes and pass percent by the Ukraine. The number of passes attempted and completed were 83 of 95, this equates to a total pass percentage of 87% which is 7% higher than the Ukraine average for the match. This attacking information combined with the fact Ukraine only attempted 1 tackle in a match where 14 were attempted sums up the Ukraine dominance.
The attacking prowess of Ukraine was best highlighted during this period in the 35th, 37th and 39th minute. These included two speculative efforts from Voronin and Konoplyanka who were given the chance to shoot after great work counter attacking from 2 Sweden corners. The area of weakness exposed by Ukraine during these counter attacks where the right and centre of Sweden’s fragile midfield. In the 39th minute, Vororin pulling strings yet again from the midfield released Shevchenko who headed across goal to Yarmolenko where 5 Swedish players blocked the threatening shot. An area of worry for Ukraine is their back 4 and their goalkeeper, because during this spell of dominance they allowed Ibrahimovic a free header which crashed off the post.
To sum up the 1st half, the Ukraine looked brilliant in the last third with notable performances from Konoplyanka and Voronin but worrying in defence. They dominated the half with 61% possession and nearly double the amount of completed passes in the last third compared to Sweden.This was combined with a superior last third pass completion percentage (42, 66%; 22, 54%), but some say might be lucky not to be behind as Sweden arguably had the best chance of the 1st half.
The Swedish team talk must have worked at half time as Ukraine did not open the second half with the dominance they had previously in the 1st half. Ukraine were again looking shaky at the back in the 48th minute as Mikhalik was found sucked out into the midfield and a half-hearted clearance by Khacheridi nearly gave the chance for Sweden to get a shot on target. Further problems in defence for the Ukraine occurred in the 52nd minute as Yarmolenko failed to clear with a header and Mikhalik was caught out of position as Ibrahimovic made it 1-0 Sweden.
This period was Ukraine’s weakest point of the match, lacking to get the ball consistently in Sweden’s half. This is shown below.
Ukraine (left) completed less passes than Sweden (right) during this period (33 to 38) which was rare during the game as the Ukraine dominated on passing figures. Also by looking at the figure above, you can subjectively see that Ukraine are forced to pass from a deeper position on the pitch and they rarely make it in to Sweden’s half. Ukraine’s pass percentage is 71% during this period which is 9% less than Ukraine achieved overall, this shows that the Swedish pressure affected their ability to play football and their sloppiness in possession led to 1-0.
During this period, Ukraine responded to the Swedish goal and started to dominate to game. They quickly scored 2 goals within 6 minutes of each other (55th and 61st) from Ukrainian talisman Andriy Shevchenko. The first was brilliant work by Gusev, picking the ball up deep in his own half and dribbling unchallenged to Sweden’s 18 yard box where he passed it short to Yarmolenko. Yarmolenko crossed a pin point ball in where it was met by a dynamic Shevchenko header and the game was level at 1-1. The 2nd goal came from a Konoplyanka corner in the 61st minute were Shevchenko scored a headed goal at the front post deceiving his marker and the man on the post, 2-1.
Ukraine were able to get the ball out to the wings and put pressure on the Swedish back 4. This led to Sweden conceding 2 goals, data for this period is displayed below.
The data above has been highlighted to show Ukraine’s attacking nature during this period. Firstly, the Ukraine had 5 shots in this 20 minute period which was the same percentage compared to the overall game as their dominance at the end of the 1st half (38%). This dominant spell is also shown through the willingness of the wingers to take people on and the amount of crosses going in the box. The figure shows 3 successful take-ons, all coming from the wide position where Ukraine try to distribute most of their play. This shows that 60% of successful take-ons occurred in this 20 minute window further emphasising the attacking nature and wing-play of the Ukraine. Ukraine completed 4 crosses overall and in this period 2 crosses were completed. This was the difference between the two teams as it led to 2 goals.
76th minute – Full Time
This period of the game was as to be expected, tough. The Swedish introduced Wilhelmsson which caused the Ukrainian back 4 problems, this was added to by Oleh Blokhin when he brought on attacking minded players which added to defensive strain. Ukraine were being cut open at the heart of their defence and the Swede’s will rue missed chances, notably in the 90th and 93th minute. Below displays passing maps for both team in the final period.
On the maps above it shows Sweden’s dominance over passing in the 76th minute to Full time. It is to be expected that a team trailing will step the tempo up and push for a late equaliser and this is the reason the statistics are heavy loaded towards Sweden. Although saying this, Ukraine struggled to keep possession and did not help themselves as they only completed 65% of their passes. This may have been down to fatigue or questionable substitutions but Ukraine nearly conceded late because they struggled to keep hold of the ball.
Cometh the Hour, Cometh the Man
Shevchenko was the difference between the 2 teams in this game and is the Ukrainian player of the game. His movement on and off the ball was like watching the man in his prime. Below is displayed an personal profile with this match statistics.
“he [Shevchenko] is getting a little bit old now, but he is a goal scorer with an eye for goal and I expect him to do well tonight.” Martin Keown before the game.
This match report has highlighted that the Ukraine are a team that is brilliant going forward. Their style of play is modern, free-flowing and evokes width and creativity. They had success going down both wings and Konoplyanka and Yarmolenko are dangerous on the counter. Timoshchuk is a key players and his ball distribution and his range of passing is vital for this team to succeed. The way in which Voronin comes short and the full-backs push up overload opposition midfield but can leave them dangerously short at the back. Their weaknesses lie in their goalkeeper and their back 4. When overloaded with attacking pressure they have the tendency to crack and give the opposition chances to score. Overall I believe Ukraine were worthy winners against Sweden and their dominance in overall pass completions (345 to 266) was a major reason why they were able to win this game. A big scalp of either England or France will see the co-hosts visiting the quarter finals.
(Statistics courtesy of 4-4-2 Stats Zone)