Sweden v Ukraine: Stubborn Swedes difficult to dismiss

Sweden fans
Sweden finished top of Group E

Sweden face Ukraine in Tuesday night's Euro 2020 last-16 showdown from Hampden Park. Mark O'Haire shares his best bet...

"You have to go back to 2017 for the Blue-Yellow’s last competitive loss against a side outside of the elite"

Sweden v Ukraine
Tuesday June 29, 20:00
Live on BBC

Sweden surprise in Group E

Sweden substitute Viktor Claesson scored a 93rd-minute winner as the Scandinavians saw off Poland 3-2 in a pulsating final pool fixture to clinch top spot in Group E at Euro 2020. Janne Andersson's outfit led 2-0 at the hour mark thanks to two goals from in-form RB Leipzig schemer Emil Forsberg, the first of which arrived after just 82 seconds.

Poland battled back to level proceedings in St Petersburg following Robert Lewandowski's double. Sweden had already confirmed their qualification to the knockout stages thanks to a well-earned goalless draw with Spain before dispatching Slovakia 1-0, but Claesson's late intervention meant the Scandinavians returned to the summit as 6/1 group winners.

Marcus Berg dropped out of the starting XI against Poland with Robin Quaison taking his place up top alongside Alexander Isak. However, Dejan Kulusevski provided two assists from the bench and the Juventus forward is pushing for inclusion from the off. Elsewhere, Sweden are expected to field the same defence and midfield for the fourth successive showdown.

Ukraine squeeze into the last-16

Ukraine progressed to the last-16 as the fourth and final best third-placed nation at Euro 2020. Andriy Shevchenko's charges failed to really fire in a kind Group C - the Yellow-Blue were beaten by Netherlands (2-3), ousted North Macedonia (2-1) before a desperately disappointing and limp effort in their final pool outing against Austria (0-1) last Monday.

Ukraine struggled to find any fluidity in their play, with their only threatening effort arriving when Mykola Shaparenko forced a routine diving save from Austrian keeper Daniel Bachmann in the first half. Shevchenko cut a frustrated figure on the touchline and after a historic unbeaten qualifying campaign, it looked like the Yellow-Blue may be heading home.

Shevchenko's chief concern coming into the last-16 clash is the left side of Ukraine's attack. Viktor Tsygankov and Olexandr Zubkov have both had calf issues meaning the influential Ruslan Malinovskyi deputised in the group games against North Macedonia and Austria. Meanwhile, Taras Stepanenko will be hoping to be recalled in the defensive midfield role.

Sweden favourites in tight tussle

This will be the fifth meeting between Sweden and Ukraine, with Sweden's only success in four previous head-to-heads arriving in a friendly in August 2011 (W1-D1-L2). The most recent contest between the pair came back at Euro 2012, with Ukraine coming from behind to win 2-1 thanks to a brace from current head coach Andriy Shevchenko.

Sweden 2.486/4 progressed to the last-16 with the lowest average ball possession figure, having made fewer successful passes and returning the lowest passing accuracy of any side in the group stages. The Scandinavians also scored with 44% of their shots on target in Group E, suggesting the Blue-Yellow were slightly fortuitous to finish top of the tree.

Inconsistent and erratic are the best words to describe Ukraine's 3.45 Euro 2020 campaign. The Yellow-Blue displayed plenty of attacking pedigree in Group C, as well as a penchant for the counter-attack, although Shevchenko's side have also appeared vulnerable defensively, with no last-16 team facing more on-target attempts in the group stages (16).

Stubborn Swedes difficult to dismiss

The Euro 2020 group-stage produced a reasonable 2.62 goals per-game with exactly half of the pool fixtures featuring Over 2.5 Goals 2.608/5. Nevertheless, European Championship knockout matches tend to be tight affairs with draws seeing a significant increase and goals per-game dropping to just 2.03 when viewing all knockout games since Euro '96.

The goal line has been set low with Under 2.5 Goals trading at just 1.608/13. It's understandable considering Sweden prefer to cede possession to their opponents, opting for a contain and counter approach. It's largely paid dividends in recent months with the pre-match favourites recording six clean sheets in eight unbeaten encounters (W6-D2-L0).

You have to go back to 2017 for the Blue-Yellow's last competitive loss against a side outside of the elite, and whilst Andriy Yarmolenko and Ruslan Malinovskiy have provided plenty of offensive threat for Ukraine thus far, the underdogs may struggle to penetrate a low defensive block at Hampden Park.

This fixture is likely to be one for the purists but Sweden Double Chance and Under 2.5 Goals appears a worthy avenue of attack with the Bet Builder paying 1.875/6 on the Sportsbook.

Mark's Euro 2020 Profit/Loss

Staked: 6 pts
Returned: 3.51 pts
P/L: -2.49 pts

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