Czech Republic vs Ukraine, Thursday, September 6, 19:45 BST/20:45 CEST Mĕstský fotbalový stadion Miroslava Valenty, Uherské Hradištĕ, Czech Republic
For the first time in European history, the UEFA Nations League will commence this week. UEFA’s 55 member states will compete over four leagues to determine the next champion of Europe. In League B Group 1, the Czech Republic, Slovakia and Ukraine have been paired against one another.
The Czech Republic enter the tournament after failing to qualify for the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia. Competing as Czechoslovakia until 1992 the Czech Republic, however, has not failed to qualify for the European Championships since becoming an independent country.
In 1996 the country even finished second behind Germany, and in 2004 the Czech Republic reached the semi-finals where they were eliminated by eventual champions Greece. Since then the country, however, has somewhat struggled at major tournaments as the Czech Republic were eliminated at the group stage in 2008, 2012 and 2016.
Hence, this cycle is a bit of a rebuild. Experienced Theodor Gebre Selassie (31) is the most experienced player in the squad with 47 caps. Selassie and Tomas Horava are the only two players aged over 30. The rest of the squad is relatively young with most players having played just one qualification campaign.
Ukraine, in the meantime, are also in a rebuild. The post-Soviet republic lost all three games at the 2016 European Championships in France. They then finished third in the 2018 FIFA World Cup qualification – UEFA Group, 1 behind Iceland and Croatia, to miss out on the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
Despite not qualifying for Russia, helping FIFA to dodge a political bullet, head coach Andriy Shevchenko can take plenty of positives from the World Cup qualification campaign. Overall the zbirna played much better football and young players like Oleksandr Zinchenko and Viktor Kovalenko, who will miss this game, managed to establish themselves in the national team.
Furthermore, with the Brazilian Marlos, who took on Ukrainian citizenship in the spring, Shevchenko is given another substantial weapon up front. Add to that young talents like Volodymyr Shepelyev, Viktor Tsygankov as well as, Artem Besiedin, who is missing this game with an injury, and Ukraine’s future is starting to look up.
Czech Republic vs Ukraine – Players to Watch:
Tomáš Vaclík #1 – Czech Republic (Sevilla)
Following Petr Čech’s retirement from international football, Tomáš Vaclík has become the Czech Republic’s starting goalkeeper. Unfortunately, despite some heroics at the club level, Vaclík was unable to replicate this form for his country. A series of poor performances saw the Czechs miss a place at the 2018 FIFA World Cup this summer, and with the establishment of the UEFA Nations League, the Czech number one will be sure to make amends for these performances.
Andriy Yarmolenko #7 – Ukraine (West Ham United)
After an unsuccessful season at German side Borussia Dortmund, the Ukrainian midfielder was sold to English club West Ham United. Although the Hammers have gone winless in their first five games in all competitions, Andriy Yarmolenko will seek to overturn the bad omens of his club side, as a strong performance at the international level could help improve his club’s performances. Yarmolenko has currently scored 35 goals in 77 international appearances, and it is likely he will be Ukraine’s key player throughout this new international tournament.
Czech Republic vs Ukraine Match Stats:
- The Czech Republic and Ukraine have faced each other on two occasions. Their most recent encounter was in September 2011, where the Czechs won 4-0.
- Both teams recently qualified for EURO 2016, although they were both eliminated in the Group Stage.
- At a larger international level, neither side have featured in a FIFA World Cup since 2006.
Futbolgrad Network Prediction: Czech Republic vs Ukraine – 1-2
Czech Republic vs Ukraine – Possible Lineups
Koubek – Bořil, Kalas, Kadeřábek, Novák – Dočkal, Hušbauer – Schick, Barák, Kopic – Krmenčí
Manager: Karel Jarolím
Pyatov – Matviyenko, Khacheridi, Rakitskiy, Karavayev, Stepanenko, Zinchenko – Yarmolenko, Marlos, Konoplyanka – Seleznyov
Manager: Andriy Shevchenko
Mark Temnycky reports on the Ukrainian men’s national team and Ukrainian clubs competing in the UEFA Champions League and UEFA Europa League. Outside of the Futbolgrad Network, he covers Manchester City for SB Nation’s Bitter and Blue. Follow him @MTem33