World Cup Qualifying, Group D, Game 2
Finland travel to Kiev on Sunday evening looking to build on their opening day draw. In their way is a stern Ukraine side who, like our previous opponents, are on an upward trajectory, having just nabbed a point from Paris. Kick off is 21:45 Finland time.
The Squad: Tim Sparv felt a niggle during training on Friday, a subsequent scan has resulted in the Finland captain being scheduled for an operation that will keep him out for a couple of weeks. He joins Rasmus Karjalainen on the injury list, leaving the squad a little light on depth. The big question for Kanerva will be which system to deploy. Traditionally Ukraine at home tend to opt for an aggressive and narrow high press. Given the trouble Finland had against a similar style on Wednesday, it is likely Rive will look to revert to four at the back. That switch should mean that Joel Pohjanpalo, who impressed coming off the bench at Bosnia, will partner Pukki up top, in turn allowing Robin Lod and possibly Robert Taylor to return to their more familiar roles in wide areas. Ukraine are a tough opponent Finland will need to set up for a smash and grab, luckily with Pukki still in form, that’s the kind of result this Finland side has up their sleeve.
Ukraine: Manager Andrei Schevchenko has now been in the manager’s seat for five years and has taken a nation that had lost its way into one that qualified for Euro 2020 ahead of Portugal and without loosing a game. They are on a bit of a strange run, having won only once in the last five, two in the last ten, but last week’s draw in Paris shows that this versatile team are not to be taken lightly. The home side will be without defensive midfielders Taras Stepanenko and Viktor Tsyhankov, and usual forwards Artem Kravets and Artem Besyedin, while West Ham wide man Andriy Yarmolenko is a big doubt. The hosts still have a host of stars in their team Oleksander Zinchenko is a regular for Man City, Viktor Kovalenko and Ruslan Malinovskiy are stalwarts in Serie A at Atalanta, while veteran Yevhen Konoplyanka now at Shaktar once tore up La Liga and the BundesLiga. Ukraine’s real strength lies in their midfield, mostly top level players physically strong, quick and technically capable. At either end of the pitch however Ukraine are less than impressive. Gent forward Roman Yeremchuk will likely lead the line the 6’3 forward though imposing will not provide a greater threat than Dzeko last week. At the back five of Schevchenko’s defenders have less than five caps, Shaktar’s Serhii Kryvstov will start Scheva will need to choose between inexperience and playing more dependable players out of position. Although technically capably and usually high pressing Ukraine’s big flaw is how they tend to react out of possession. Ukraine often find it difficult to regain their shape and with inexperience at the back and key defensive midfielders missing, there should be the opportunity for Finland to counter effectively.
Previous: In our last encounter Joel Pohjanpalo grabbed the equalizer before Artem Besyedin grabbed the winner at the Ratina. We’ve yet to beat Ukraine.
P:2, W:0, D:0, L:2, GF:1, GA:3
Referee: Istvan Kovacs (Romania). 36 year old whistler who graduated to international reffing in 2020, but has been reff’ing in the champs league since 2018. 8 reds in his last 50 games he doesn’t tend to get card happy, so should hold few surprises.
Broadcast: live on ViaSport and ViaFree, studio starts at 21:00, if your streaming have a second browser standing by.
Mark W: 0-1
Mark H: 0-0