What else was I going to do on a quiet Tuesday night with no football to watch?
Since I am Scottish and will be at the match, I wanted to learn more about the Ukraine national team, especially how they’ve prepared given their unique situation with a war raging back home.
As soon as Russia invaded Ukraine on the 24th of February, a law was immediately enacted mandating that every man aged between 18 and 60 remain inside Ukraine and work to fight against the aggressors.
Ukraine head coach Oleksandr Petrakov tried to enlist with Ukraine’s Territorial Defense Force but was turned away because he was too old and didn’t have any military skills, instead, he was told ”bring us to the World Cup.“
Many domestic players also tried to enlist in the military, however, President Zelensky granted a special dispensation to allow the squad to leave Ukraine to prepare for the World Cup play-off because it would boost national morale if they were to qualify.
The squad have been at a training camp in Slovenia since the beginning of May. 16 of the 26 players play in Ukraine, the remaining eight have joined since their clubs’ seasons ended, including Premier League trio Mykolenko, Yarmolenko and Zinchenko.
The team have also managed to play three friendlies in preparation, beating Borussia Monchengladbach 2-1, beating Empoli 3-1 and drawing 1-1 with Rijeka. They were without non-domestic players in the latter two, some featured in the draw vs Rijeka.
It’s very difficult to draw conclusions from those games considering they were friendlies played towards the end of long seasons for each club and it’s likely the starting XI vs Scotland will be very different.
However, both the friendlies and Ukraine’s qualification campaign share a theme – scoring and conceding in almost every match.
Both teams to score landed in seven of Ukraine’s eight qualifying matches then each of the warm-up friendlies. Ukraine haven’t actually failed to score a goal since the 4-0 defeat against England at EURO 2020 but they’ve only managed one clean sheet from those 10 matches.
The vulnerability in defence is also evident with their xG conceded. Finland, Bosnia and France each achieved at least 1.50 xG vs Ukraine during qualification in September and October. In the three most recent friendlies, all three opponents had at least 1 xG with Empoli actually hitting 2.31.
They don’t seem to have any problems creating chances, they averaged 1.87 xG throughout qualification including 1.52 vs France in September. They averaged 2.56 xG in their three recent warm-up friendlies, but again, we shouldn’t put too much stock into them.
Both teams to score is odds-against at 2.10. This same bet also landed in three of Ukraine’s five EURO 2020 matches.
The goalscoring statistics can be put down to Ukraine’s formation and style of play. 4-3-3 is Petrakov’s most popular formation, 3-4-3 being his second most popular.
In Group D, Ukraine top the charts for number of shots per match – an average of 13.39 per game, France 12.89 per match, however, Ukraine conceded 9.99 shots per game, more than France and Bosnia.
Malinovskiy averaged 4.28 shots per game in Group D, Yarmolenko with 3.07 per game and Yaremchuk with 2.36 per game. Yaremchuk was Ukraine’s top goalscorer with three goals.
The obvious bet for a shot on target is Yarmolenko, he’s 1.50 for 1+ shot on target. He usually plays right of the front three, he managed a shot on target in three of five matches in the group. He failed to hit the target vs Bosnia but still had two attempts at goal, one of which narrowly went past the post.
Ukraine have a very direct style of play. They topped the group for average dribbles per match, 25.14 per game, this also led to Ukraine being the most fouled team – suffering on average 10.10 fouls per game.
Another stand-out statistic for me is four of Ukraine’s 11 goals in qualification came from long-shots. To put this into context, only one of France’s 18 goals came from long shots. No other team in the group scored more than one goal from distance, they love a shot from range.
Malinovskiy is one who likes a shot from distance. Although he tops the charts for shots per game, the average xG per shot is just 0.07 which is clear indicator he is shooting with ambition. He’s 1.53 for 2+ shots, 2.88 for 3+ shots. He has had three or more shots in four of his last five competitive matches for Ukraine.
Zinchenko is another who loves to shoot from distance, nine of his 11 shots in qualification came from outside the area – he’s 1.30 for a single shot or 2.70 for two shots. He’s also on free-kicks.
As for discipline, Ukraine committed the least amount of fouls in the group with only 7.40 per match. They picked up 11 yellow cards, an average of just 1.4 cards per game.
If he starts, Shaparenko is one to watch for a card. He suffered 2.26 fouls per game, was involved in 7.72 defensive duels per game and committed 1.69 fouls per game (the most for Ukraine). If he does start, he’ll be up against John McGinn, Scotland’s most fouled player. Shaparenko is 4/1 to be shown a card.
Stepanenko is another to watch for a booking at 3.20. He wasn’t booked during qualification but he does average a card every four matches for Ukraine. During EURO 2020 qualification he picked up four yellows in only six matches, a card every 80 minutes. Throughout his club career he averages a card in every three matches, he’ll also be up against John McGinn.
Given what’s at stake for both nations and the overwhelming emotion, there is value in going against averages for a Ukraine bookings bet. Ukraine over 1.5 cards at 1.62 looks a great leg for a bet builder, Ukraine over 2.5 cards at 3.20 looks a great value bet.
Finally, stay well clear of Ukraine corners. Ukraine only managed five or more corners in one match – the 1-1 draw with Kazakhstan. They averaged three corners per match in the group. Unsurprisingly, the bookies are wise to it, under 4.5 Ukraine corners is only 1.44.
That took longer than expected but it’s given me a great basis for finalising two bet builders tomorrow for the match.
I now know everything I need to about Ukraine as a team and the key players to watch. Couple that with my knowledge of Scotland and we should be in a good place.
* I recommend waiting for confirmed team line-ups before placing any bets *
How to watch Scotland v Ukraine in the 2022 World Cup Qualifiers
📅 When is Scotland v Ukraine? / Wednesday, 1st June 2022, 19:45
🏟 Where is Scotland v Ukraine? / Hampden Park (Glasgow)
📺 What TV channel is Scotland v Ukraine? / Sky Sports Football, Sky Sports Main Event, STV
🟨 …And who is the referee for Scotland v Ukraine? / Danny Makkelie 🇳🇱