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Ukraine may have lost two of their three group stage matches, but a 2-1 win over North Macedonia was enough to secure progression to the knockouts, as the worst of the third-placed sides to make the cut.
They’ve been rewarded with one of the kindest opponents they could have hoped for, with Austria and the Czech Republic the only other teams beyond themselves still in the competition that are lower than Sweden in FIFA’s world rankings.
Sweden secured top spot in Group E with their win over Poland on matchday three, having previously stifled Spain in a goalless stalemate and battled to a narrow win over Slovakia.
They’ve now won seven of eight unbeaten matches during 2021 so far, registering six clean sheets over this period, leaving them clear favourites to set up a quarter-final showdown with either England or Germany.
Ukraine were excellent in qualifying as they topped a pool alongside Portugal, Serbia, Luxembourg and Lithuania, remaining unbeaten as they even took four points from the defending European champions.
However, they’re only W4-D4-L8 over their past 16 fixtures, with their only wins from the past 12 coming over Northern Ireland, Cyprus and North Macedonia. The former are the highest-ranked team of that bunch according to FIFA, coming in at 48th in the world.
Sweden -1 Handicap Draw
Still, Ukraine have suffered just two defeats in nine now, with both of them coming by one-goal margins, so Sweden will have their work cut out to deliver on expectations.
Ukraine’s 1-0 defeat to Austria last time out was also the only time across this spell where they failed to register a goal, so despite the defensive resilience Sweden have demonstrated since the turn of the year, we would expect their opponents to have one or two chances.
Eight of Sweden’s 11 victories since the start of 2020 have come by just the single strike, with five of them finishing 1-0.
We wouldn’t want to be too gung-ho regarding the prospects of a Swedish clean sheet given Ukraine’s ability to find the net, especially having conceded twice last time out against Poland, but the winning margin holds some appeal.
Emil Forsberg To Score First
Alexander Isak has been Sweden’s biggest threat at this tournament in terms of danger, but he’s yet to get off the mark this summer and it’s the experienced Emil Forsberg who has been finding the net.
He’s bagged a penalty against Slovakia and a brace against Poland in their last two matches, while also scored in their final warm-up friendly with Armenia, netting the opening goal in all three of those matches.