Whereas Gareth Southgate's team went into their last-16 tie with Germany amid relentless reminders of historic failures against their old rivals and the fear of yet another, they are simply expected to beat Ukraine in Rome on Saturday
This time England expects.
Whereas Gareth Southgate's team went into their last-16 tie with Germany amid relentless reminders of historic failures against their old rivals and the fear of yet another, they are simply expected to beat Ukraine in Rome on Saturday.
It is not only the media and fans in England, buoyed by Tuesday's victory at Wembley, that makes the Three Lions clear favourites -- any objective analysis of the two teams would reach the same conclusion.
England are ranked third in the world while Ukraine are 24th.
The average player value of the England team is 57.8 million euros -- while Ukraine's is 6.6 million euros.
England's captain Harry Kane is valued at over 100 million euros and Ukraine's top player Oleksandr Zinchenko is worth less than a quarter of that amount.
In the group stage of the tournament, England were unbeaten and finished top of their group while Ukraine lost twice and finished third, the only team with three points to make it to the knockout stage. This is their first Euro quarter-final match while it will be England's sixth.
Ukraine have conceded six goals in their four matches while England have let in none and in seven meetings between the two nations, England have won four times and Ukraine just once.
"It's pretty clear [that England are favourites] – you've seen them, the players they have, and the level they play at," said Ukraine defender Mykola Matviyenko.
"So, yes, it will be difficult but I'll say it again: anything is possible at this stage, and we believe," he added.
While Southgate's men go into this game still buzzing from the electric atmosphere at Wembley, Ukraine are also on a high after Artem Dovbyk's header at the end of extra-time gave them a 2-1 win over Sweden.
The pressure is all on England for whom defeat would mean the tournament is viewed as a failure and they will leave their home turf for the Stadio Olimpico where the crowd will be smaller but probably backing their underdog opponents.
"This is a big challenge for us. We’ve got to go away from Wembley, to somewhere where there might not be many fans, it’s quite hot, and play an opponent where not many of their players are known to us," Southgate said.
“And then there is this perception now that all we’ve got to do is turn up and we’re on our way. So there is total focus now on Saturday, we need to prepare the right way, and our mentality will be critical," he added.
His counterpart, Andriy Shevchenko, is relishing the chance to take on England at a ground where he played against Roma and Lazio during his years as a prolific goalscorer with AC Milan.
"They are incredibly difficult to score against but their strength shouldn't scare us," he said.
"It should motivate us because everything is possible in football as in life and we will play our hearts out to give our fans even more to cheer about."
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Ukraine: England have proven themselves tough to beat defensively at this tournament so Ukraine will be relying on Andriy Yarmolenko to cause them problems. The West Ham man has been Ukraine’s attacking player of the tournament and has been directly involved in four of their six goals so far, scoring two goals and recording two assists. Against Sweden last time out, it was Yarmolenko who set up Oleksandr Zinchenko for Ukraine’s opening goal, having also assisted in the 2-1 win over North Macedonia. Yarmolenko scored against North Macedonia and Netherlands and while he failed to find the net in each of their past two matches, don’t count him out here.
England: Raheem Sterling has deservedly received a lot of praise for his role at Euro 2020 so far, but against Germany Jordan Pickford took his improvements to a new level. The Everton shot-stopper has constantly come under criticism for his performances at club level, and also for a goal conceded at the 2018 World Cup. But after four games at Euro 2020, Pickford is yet to concede, keeping four clean sheets. While he was protected by his defence in the group stage, having to make just four saves, Pickford stepped up against Germany with three saves including one excellent effort to tip Kai Havertz’s goal-bound shot from the edge of the area over the bar. Another clean sheet and England will have a good chance of reaching the semi-finals.
WHO'S SAYING WHAT
Ukraine coach Andriy Shevchenko: "I am happy because at this stage of the tournament you have to give more than 100% and what I saw from my players they really tried and played with heart. My message to the players was to believe. We are here and this is our chance to change the future and we did it. England are a great team, a lot of great players and a great manager. It will be a hard game for us."
Ukraine star Oleksandr Zinchenko: "We are writing history. I would like to thank the supporters during the Sweden game. After the first three games we deserved criticism but we came back and did what we wanted. England are showing some class in this competition with a lot of superstars on the field. I would love to see my [Manchester City] team-mates as soon as possible because I miss them."
England coach Gareth Southgate: "It's good to come away from Wembley now. It would have been hard to replicate the atmosphere we had the other day three days later. To have a different focus, different surroundings is good for us. It will be more like the crowds we had for the first three group games, but with less England fans. Our players are used to playing Premier League games all season without any fans in. It doesn't matter too much to us. You need good leaders in that situation and we have plenty of them."
England goalkeeper Jordan Pickford: ."There would be nothing better for me than to win a medal with England. The personal stuff, that takes care of itself. But to win a major trophy with England would be the pinnacle. When I've got the ball it is definitely my decision to make. As long as I'm making the right decision, we can argue after. I can see the full pitch. I just want to give that added information. The crowd is ridiculously loud and it's hard to get my voice over to them. So I have got to scream a bit louder. We are all striving for one thing. ."I don't think it's as heated as you all think. It's just that my expressions are a bit over the top at times."
HEAD TO HEAD
Ukraine and England have played each other seven times in their history marking their quarter-final meeting as their eighth matchup. The Three Lions have won four of the previous seven matches, drawing twice and losing just once. The last four meetings between the teams are dead level, with two draws and one win each dating back to 2009. England and Ukraine met in the group stage of Euro 2012, with Wayne Rooney scoring the only goal of the game. Ukraine’s one win over England came in qualification for the 2010 World Cup with Serhiy Nazarenko scoring the only goal of the game.
121 - Timed at 120:37, Artem Dovbyk has scored the second-latest goal in European Championship history, behind Semih Sentürk v Croatia in 2008 (121:01), and the latest match-winning strike in the competition, overtaking Michel Platini v Portugal in 1984 (118:53). Gasp. #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/LAXcVAAvxw— OptaJoe (@OptaJoe) June 29, 2021
KEY OPTA FACTS
Ukraine: Bushchan; Karavaev, Matviyenko, Zabarnyi, Mykolenko; Malinovskyi, Sydorchuk, Zinchenko; Yarmolenko, Yaremchuk, Tsyhankov
England: Pickford; Walker, Stones, Maguire, Shaw; Rice, Phillips; Foden, Grealish, Sterling; Kane