Wednesday, July 17, 2024
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Preview: Ukraine vs. Belgium – prediction, team news, lineups – Sports Mole

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The extremely tightly-contested Euro 2024 Group E comes to a head on Wednesday evening, where Ukraine and Belgium – the original two favourites for last-16 places – scrap it out at the MHPArena in Stuttgart.
Both nations got off the mark at the second attempt last time out, as Serhiy Rebrov‘s side fought back from a goal down to sink Slovakia 2-1, while the Red Devils were 2-0 victors against Romania.

Ukraine's Oleksandr Zinchenko celebrating after goal on June 21, 2024© Reuters
Anything and everything is still possible on the final matchday of Euro 2024 Group E, in which all four sides boast three points from their opening two fixtures – an all-time first at the Championships – but the Ukrainians currently reside at the bottom of the pile on account of their inferior goal difference.
After shipping three to the Romanians – a dreadful affair which saw Real Madrid’s Andriy Lunin lose his place in goal for matchday two – Ukraine were on the verge of seeing their Euros adventure come to a premature end when Ivan Schranz netted for the second time in two games for Slovakia.
However, Mykola Shaparenko‘s calm finish from Oleksandr Zinchenko‘s cross brought Ukraine level, and even though Roman Yaremchuk wasted one golden opportunity with an over-hit pass to Mykhaylo Mudryk, he more than made up for it in the 80th minute with an exquisite touch and finish to complete the turnaround.
Still in with a shot of last-16 qualification thanks to their dramatic fightback, the formula is simple for the Blue and Yellow, who will guarantee a top-two ranking if they win and could even finish first in the section with all three points if they better Romania’s result.
Alternatively, a draw would suffice for third – and potentially a last-16 path – if there is a winner in Romania’s clash with Slovakia, and even defeat may not prove fatal if the latter team also suffer defeat, but Rebrov’s men will not concern themselves with such complicated number-crunching here.
Instead, Ukraine could look to follow a peculiar pattern at the European Championships, in which they have either not scored or struck two goals in each of their last 13 games – going goalless in eight and netting a double in five – and all four of their successes at the tournament have come via a 2-1 margin.
Belgium manager Domenico Tedesco pictured in June 2024 [IMAGO]© Imago
However hard he may try, the ball just will not go into the back of the net for Belgium’s all-time top scorer Romelu Lukaku at Euro 2024, and while his blushes were not spared in the Red Devils’ shock opening loss to Slovakia, but it was a different story on Saturday.
A crisp 73rd-second strike from Youri Tielemans – the quickest goal that the Belgian men’s team have ever scored at a major tournament – set Domenico Tedesco‘s men on the path to victory versus Romania, before a Koen Casteels punt forward went all the way through for Kevin De Bruyne to slot home number two.
There were sighs of relief all around as De Bruyne rubber-stamped Belgium’s pivotal success in Cologne, one which currently has the Red Devils second in the section and safe in the knowledge that they only need to avoid defeat on Wednesday to guarantee a knockout place.
First place will be theirs if they triumph and Slovakia only manage a draw or defeat to Romania, but a loss coupled with Romania obtaining at least one point will condemn them to another dismal group-stage exit following such a fate at the 2022 World Cup.
With the shock loss to Slovakia representing their only reverse from their last 17 matches across all competitions, Tedesco’s men ought to be optimistic of avoiding a repeat of their Qatar heartache on Wednesday, where they will remarkably meet Ukraine in a senior men’s international for the very first time.
Not since a shock 1-0 friendly loss to Egypt in 1999 have Belgium been beaten in their inaugural meeting with a fellow national team – going unbeaten in 22 successive matches since – and it has been 24 years since the Red Devils last suffered defeat in their closing Euros group-stage contest.

Ukraine's Vitaliy Mykolenko in action on March 26, 2024© Reuters
As Vitaliy Mykolenko was given the green light to make the matchday squad in the triumph over Slovakia, nearly all of Ukraine’s players are fit and raring to go for Wednesday’s crunch affair, although the Everton left-back did not earn any minutes on matchday two.
Yaremchuk and right-back Yukhym Konoplya will both sit out any potential last-16 tie if they pick up yellow cards in Stuttgart, but the former should lose out to Artem Dovbyk for the number nine spot anyway, despite his Euros-saving contribution last time out.
Anatoliy Trubin more than justified his selection over Lunin in between the posts for the triumph over Slovakia and should get the nod in goal again here, while Zinchenko may revert to his usual midfield role for his country if Mykolenko is deemed OK to start.
A late concern has emerged over Girona attacker Viktor Tsygankov, though; the Arsenal-linked man is suffering from discomfort, so Andriy Yarmolenko ought to reprise his role on the wing.
Regarding Belgium’s injury situation, neither Axel Witsel (adductor) nor Thomas Meunier (thigh) were fit to take part in the win over Romania – Tedesco has confirmed that the pair still need a few more days to get back up to speed and will not be available for Wednesday’s showdown too, where Dodi Lukebakio must serve a suspension.
Lukebakio’s ban opens the door for either Leandro Trossard or Johan Bakayoko to return to the final third, while Rennes defender Arthur Theate played down concerns over his fitness after he was forced off in the 77th minute with a blow to the thigh.
Theate should therefore be given the all-clear to reprise his role in defence, and the same can be said for 37-year-old Jan Vertonghen, who is now the third-oldest man to play for Belgium at a major tournament behind Pierre Braine and Wilfried Van Moer.

Ukraine possible starting lineup:
Trubin; Tymchyk, Zabarnyi, Matvienko, Mykolenko; Sudakov, Zinchenko, Shaparenko; Yarmolenko, Dovbyk, Mudryk
Belgium possible starting lineup:
Casteels; Castagne, Faes, Vertonghen, Theate; Tielemans, Onana; Doku, De Bruyne, Trossard; Lukaku

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The volume of chances created is never a problem for Belgium, who have instead been guilty of spurning chance after chance in their opening two games so far, although such profligacy did not cost them against Romania.
Facing a leaky Ukraine defence who often had Trubin to thank against Slovakia, Tedesco’s men should come away with the triumph needed to punch their rightful ticket to the knockouts and leave Rebrov’s side waiting to learn their fate with bated breath.

For data analysis of the most likely results, scorelines and more for this match please click here.

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