England and Ukraine played out an entertaining 1-1 draw in the UEFA Euro 2024 Qualifiers on Saturday, September 9.
Ukraine entered this contest on the back of two wins and one defeat in their first three matches in Group C. They trailed the Three Lions by six points prior to kick off and were looking to pull further away from third-placed Italy (3 pts). Manager Serhiy Rebrov named a strong lineup for this game.
Gareth Southgate’s men, on the other hand, won each of their four previous games, scoring a whopping 15 goals in the process. A perfect start meant they already had one foot in next year’s Group Stage as the manager fielded a full-strength lineup.
England made a positive start to the game as they looked disciplined with and without the ball. They maintained a rigid shape which was hard for Ukraine to break down, and also pressed high up the pitch, allowing for more ball retention. However, they fell behind after 22 minutes as Oleksandr Zinchenko converted a sharp chance for 1-0.
Harry Kane provided a lovely assist for Kyle Walker to bag his first goal for England on the cusp of half-time as the teams were tied 1-1 at the interval.
Both managers made multiple changes in the second half as England dominated possession yet again. However, Ukraine lacked any sort of bite in the final third, ending up with just one shot on target in the entire game. This allowed the Three Lions’ defense to breathe easy at the back while their forwards tried to carve out openings.
Neither team looked a real threat going forward in the second period and the game came to a slow pace, before England and Ukraine shared the spoils at 1-1.
On that note, here are the five talking points from the contest.
#5. Zinchenko opens the scoring for Ukraine
England had the ball for nearly 70% of the first period but found themselves trailing midway through the first period after a defensive error.
Ukraine won the ball in midfield and drove forward through Yukhym Konoplia on the right flank. He found space before cutting the ball back towards a group of yellow shirts, with Oleksandr Zinchenko reacting first to tap-in from close-range.
Harry Maguire was seen blocking his own teammate Marc Guehi while the cross was being played as the Three Lions conceded in bizarre fashion.
That effort was coincidentally Ukraine’s only shot in the first period.
#4. Kyle Walker scores his first-ever goal for England
As England looked for a way back into the game, they adopted multiple approaches to try and break down Ukraine’s defensive lines. Harry Kane even dropped as deep as the halfway line to facilitate play and created the chance for his team’s equalizer.
Kane played a lovely weighted diagonal ball from the halfway line towards Kyle Walker on the right flank, who had timed his run into the box to perfection. The Manchester City full-back controlled the ball awkwardly but managed to tuck it into the back of the net for his first goal for his country.
It took him 77 games to get off the mark for the Three Lions – the longest any player has had to wait to score for their men’s national team.
#3. Gareth Southgate’s selection brought under great scrutiny
When the lineups were initially announced, many were pleased to see in-form stars like Jude Bellingham and James Maddison in the team. However, few were pleased with the inclusion of Harry Maguire and Jordan Henderson, with the latter’s presence forcing Maddison out wide on the left.
With accomplished stars like Marcus Rashford, who have dominated the last year or so on the left wing, many questioned why Southgate did not favor him. There were also doubts about Maguire’s caliber to play for his country, with AC Milan’s Fikayo Tomori proving to be a great alternative too.
Another questionable call was having two goalkeepers among the substitutes, while newcomers like Edward Nketiah were left out completely.
#2. Neither team had substitutes that made a real impact
Ukraine were the first to make a change as they used one of those at the interval, and made two more about 20 minutes into the second period. Southgate, too, waited a while before turning to his bench.
Both managers made attack-minded changes, replacing defensive players with midfielders and forwards. However, none of the eight substitutes looked like they could win the game for their respective teams.
England brought on Marcus Rashford, Phil Foden and Conor Gallagher – three players who can turn games around on their day. But it wasn’t to be.
#1. England comfortably placed to qualify as Group C winners
With three rounds of qualifiers remaining for the Three Lions, 13 points and a six-point cushion over Ukraine seem more than comfortable. Fellow favorites Italy have played the least amount of games in the group so far (2) and have just three points on the board so far.
Should the Azzurri have aspirations of qualifying, they will need to win nearly every game they have left, including a trip to England.
As things stand, the two teams that faced off today have the best chances of qualifying.