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Preview: Ukraine vs. North Macedonia - prediction, team news, lineups

Sports Mole previews Thursday's European Championship clash between Ukraine and North Macedonia, including predictions, team news and possible lineups.

Ukraine and North Macedonia meet in Bucharest on Thursday afternoon, hoping to claim three crucial points in their second Group C match at Euro 2020.

Both sides tasted defeat in their opening games, with Andriy Shevchenko's men losing a thrilling 3-2 encounter with the Netherlands, while the Red Lynxes were defeated 3-1 by Austria.


Match preview

Ukraine manager Andriy Shevchenko on June 7, 2021© Reuters

Ukraine were unable to replicate their efforts from Euro 2012 and win their opening group game, as they came up short against the Netherlands in Amsterdam on Sunday.

After a frantic yet goalless first half, Dutch captain Georginio Wijnaldum pounced on a loose ball to break the deadlock in the 52nd minute, before Wout Weghorst's first-time finish from a tight angle doubled their lead six minutes later.

Ukraine were seemingly heading for defeat; however, Shevchenko's men had other ideas. With 15 minutes remaining, a classic left-footed strike from Andriy Yarmolenko, cutting in from the right flank, pulled one back for the Yellow and Blue before a powerful header from Roman Yaremchuk completed the comeback four minutes later.

The 16,000 Dutch fans in the Johan Cruijff ArenA were silenced heading into the final 10 minutes, but right wing-back Denzel Dumfries ensured they were to roar once more as his 85th-minute header from Nathan Ake's cross sealed all three points for Frank De Boer's side.

Despite defeat, Ukraine can take positives from their opening match. Going toe-to-toe with one of Europe's top nations is no mean feat and their fighting spirit to get back into the game will have pleased Shevchenko.

Ukraine will, however, need to claim something against Euro 2020's lowest-ranked side North Macedonia if they are to keep their hopes of securing a top-two finish in Group C alive.

The Yellow and Blue, who will be the favourites heading into Thursday's clash, have only ever faced the Red Lynxes four times in their history, winning their last two encounters in 2014 and 2015 without conceding a goal.

North Macedonia manager Igor Angelovski on June 1, 2021© Reuters

North Macedonia's first ever match at a major tournament ended in defeat against Austria, who claimed their first ever victory at a European Championships, winning 3-1 in Bucharest on Sunday.

Stefan Lainer's brilliant volley in the 18th minute was quickly cancelled out 10 minutes later, when 37-year-old Goran Pandev pounced on a defensive mix-up inside the penalty area and tapped in to an empty net, to become the second-oldest goalscorer in the tournament's history.

Parity was restored and confidence grew amongst the North Macedonian players, but they were unable to carve out any more clear-cut chances. The Austrians remained a threat and the second-half substitutions made by Franco Foda proved decisive, as goals from forwards Michael Gregoritsch and Marko Arnautovic sealed all three points for Das Team.

Igor Angelovski will have been proud of the brave efforts shown by his players despite suffering defeat, although an even greater performance will likely be needed if they are to claim a much-needed win against Ukraine.

North Macedonia's only victory against the Yellow and Blue came back in 2004 when they won a friendly encounter 1-0 on home soil.

The Red Lynxes, however, failed to score in their other three meetings against them and they can ill afford to draw another blank on Thursday if they are to reach the last 16.

Ukraine European Championship form:
  • L

Ukraine form (all competitions):
  • D
  • D
  • D
  • W
  • W
  • L

North Macedonia European Championship form:
  • L

North Macedonia form (all competitions):
  • L
  • W
  • W
  • D
  • W
  • L


Team News

Ukraine's Andriy Yarmolenko celebrates scoring their fourth goal with teammates on June 7, 2021© Reuters

Ukraine are set to be without winger Oleksandr Zubkov, who was substituted against the Netherlands with a foot injury in the 13th minute.

Either Brazilian-born Marlos or Viktor Tsygankov could come in to the first XI as the 24-year-old's replacement, and may join Yarmolenko and Yaremchuk in a three-man attack.

Aside from this, Shevchenko is unlikely to make too many changes to his starting lineup and is expected to stick with a 4-3-3 formation.

Defensive midfielder Serhiy Sydorchuk, who is one booking away from a suspension, is set to sit just in front of the back four, and he could be joined in the middle of the pitch by Atalanta BC's Ruslan Malinovskyi and Manchester City's Oleksandr Zinchenko.

Eighteen-year-old Ilya Zabarnyi partnered Mykola Matviyenko at centre-back in the opening match, and both defenders are set to keep their places in the first XI.

As for North Macedonia, Angelovski may decide to stick with the same starting lineup and 3-5-2 formation which was used against Austria last weekend.

Darko Velkovski, Visar Musliu and Stefan Ristovski are all set to keep their places in the back three, while midfielder Boban Nikolov could start again at right wing-back.

Key duo Aleksandar Trajkovski and Ezgjan Alioski – who both received yellow cards in the opening game, and are now just one booking away from a suspension – are set to start up front and at left wing-back respectively.

Trajkovski will likely be joined in attack by captain Pandev, while midfield trio Eljif Elmas, Arijan Ademi and Enis Bardhi are all expected to start again in the middle of the pitch.

Ukraine possible starting lineup:
Bushchan; Karavayev, Zabarnyi, Matviyenko, Mykolenko; Malinovskyi, Sydorchuk, Zinchenko; Yarmolenko, Yaremchuk, Tsygankov

North Macedonia possible starting lineup:
Dimitrievski; S.Ristevski, Velkovski, Musliu; Nikolov, Bardhi, Ademi, Elmas, Alioski; Pandev, Trajkovski


SM words green background

We say: Ukraine 3-1 North Macedonia

Ukraine have failed to score in just two of their last 22 international matches across all competitions, while North Macedonia have only failed to score in one of their last 16 games.

Goals are to be expected in Thursday's clash, which is a crucial game for both sides if they wish to reach the knockout stage.

Although the Red Lynxes are sure to put up a valiant fight, we think Shevchenko's men have that extra quality in the final third to secure all three points in Bucharest.



Top tip

Our expert tipster partners at Sporita.com are predicting over 1.5 goals in this match. Click here to find out what else they are predicting for this game and for more of their tried-and-tested football tips.Over 1.5:data


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How you voted: Ukraine vs N. Macedonia

Ukraine
87.9%
Draw
6.3%
North Macedonia
5.8%
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North Macedonia coach Igor Angelovski celebrates with players after qualifying for Euro 2020 in November 2020
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North Macedonia Euro 2020 preview - prediction, fixtures, squad, star player
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Thursday's key events


ATHLETICS
· The women's heptathlon continues with the long jump, javelin and 800m, with Katarina Johnson-Thompson now out of contention following an injury (1.10am-1.40pm)
· Andrew Pozzi pursues his dream of an Olympic medal in the men's 110m hurdles final (3.55am)
· Tom Bosworth and Callum Wilkinson are among the British hopes in the men's 20km race walk (8.30am)
· Holly Bradshaw aims to improve on fifth in Rio to challenge Greece's Katerina Stefanidi and Anzhelika Sidorova of Russia for an unlikely medal in the women's pole vault (11am)
· London 2012 champion Kirani James goes up against current world champion Steven Gardiner in the men's 400m final (1pm)

MARATHON SWIMMING
· One of the toughest Olympic events takes place in Tokyo Bay as GB's Hector Pardoe takes on the men's 20km marathon swim (10.30pm Wed)

BOXING
· Galal Yafai takes on takes on Kazakhstan's Saken Bibossinov for a spot in the gold medal bout of the fly (48kg-52kg) class (6.48am)

DIVING
· Lois Toulson and Andrea Spendolini-Sirieix (daughter of First Dates' Fred Sirieix) line up for the women's 10m platform (semi-final 2am; final 7am)

HOCKEY
· Australia face Belgium in the men's final (11am)

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