Ukraine v Austria
Monday 21 June, 17:00
Live on ITV4
Yarmolenko leading the charge
While he can be maddeningly inconsistent at club level, Andriy Yarmolenko seems like a man who is truly energised by representing his country. The Ukraine winger scored a stunning long-range effort in defeat to the Dutch, and netted the opener in a 2-1 win over North Macedonia. Given that the 31-year-old has made just 16 Premier League starts across three seasons for West Ham, it's refreshing to see the skipper make a genuine impact.
There have been other eye-catching players too. Having had a terrific domestic season in Belgium with Gent, centre-forward Roman Yaremchuk has looked sharp and has scored in both appearances, while rampaging young left-back Vitaliy Mykolenko is a player who is getting better all the time. Although he had a penalty saved in the win over North Macedonia (which cost this writer a 3.613/5 winner), Atalanta midfielder Ruslan Malinovskyi had a splendid game, and was constantly looking to either score or create chances.
That win over North Macedonia ended a run of six consecutive defeats at the finals of the European Championship, and our pals at Opta tell us that Ukraine haven't won back-to-back games at a major tournament since the 2006 World Cup. Current coach Andriy Shevchenko netted in both of those wins against Tunisia and Saudi Arabia.
Shevchenko could name the same XI that won last time out, especially when you consider that Oleksandr Zubkov is still carrying a knock, and Marlos didn't play particularly well as a substitute against the Netherlands.
Foda's glory didn't last long
Going into this tournament, there was little faith among Austrian fans when it came to the coaching ability of Franco Foda. Although those doubts were dispelled somewhat by a lively 3-1 win over North Macedonia, all the concerns reappeared after an abject 2-0 loss to the Netherlands. Das Team lacked cohesion in Amsterdam, and Foda has somehow managed to make a talented group of players less than the sum of its parts. While I agree that star player David Alaba should be deployed in the back three, it seemed baffling to see Eintracht Frankfurt's behemoth Martin Hinteregger rumbling forward from the back line instead of Real Madrid's new signing.
With bad-boy striker Marko Arnautovic serving a one-match suspension, Foda's decision to bench Stuttgart forward Sasa Kalajdzic was even more confusing. The tall goal-getter was kept on the bench for an hour, with neither Christoph Baumgartner nor Michael Greogritsch impressing in his absence. The Infogol xG stats tell a rather grim tale, with Austria posting a figure of 0.78 and allowing the Dutch an Expected Goals figure of 3.53.
Arnautovic has completed his ban after being found guilty of verbally abusing an opponent, but it remains to be seen whether he'll make his first start of Euro 2020. Valentino Lazaro is expected to miss the game with injury, but in truth he has only been a bit-part player so far.
Don't be distracted by cynicism
Both teams know that a draw will almost certainly see them reach the last 16, and the price of the draw in the Match Odds market has plunged to evens, which is a remarkable state of affairs. I know the idea of some kind of entente cordiale is tempting, but I'm not sure players are wired that way, and given how awful Austria were against the Dutch I think Ukraine might fly at them.
Ukraine have looked a more dangerous team in attack and midfield, and I think Shevchenko is a more proficient coach than the unpopular Foda. You can back Ukraine, but still keep the draw onside by using the Draw No Bet market. If you back Ukraine at 1.9720/21, you win if they win, but a draw will see your stake returned.
Alternatively, you may see these teams give it a go in the first hour or so, before then deciding that a draw does them no harm if the game is level at that point. In that instance, you could use the Sportsbook to back First Half in the Half With Most Goals market at a hefty 3.412/5.
Roman could leave Austrians in ruins
Roman Yaremchuk has translated his domestic form into excellent displays here, and he has shown he can be a threat in the air and on the ground. He is a rather big 4.57/2 to score at any time, with the in-form Yarmolenko priced at 5.04/1.
I've backed Ruslan Malinovskyi to score in both group games so far without success, but I'd certainly consider him here in the Anytime Assist market at 6.511/2. He takes the set plays, and has been whipping the ball into the box with quality. He also has an eye for a through-ball, and he made one of the goals against the Netherlands.