Ukraine against Portugal was a central fixture in Group B of the UEFA Euro 2020 qualification phase. Ukraine led by five points going into the game and was looking to all but seal top spot in the group. Football fans can book Ukraine Euro Cup Tickets from our website on exclusively discounted prices.
Portugal was not only looking to up, chasing Ukraine, but also wary of Serbia not too far behind them. They needed to grab a win to sit comfortably in an automatic qualification spot.
This tactical analysis will look at Ukraine’s pivotal 2-1 win over Portugal. The analysis will examine the tactics of both of these teams and how they approached the clash.
Ukraine building up
Ukraine would build up with their full-backs, Karavaev and Mykolenko, pushed up high much like Portugal. Stepanenko would drop back to help the centre-backs play out from the back. He would also be joined by one or even both of Malinovskiy and Zinchenko.
This helped them circulate the ball near the back but they would need to progress it. The aforementioned balls in behind were one tool and the positioning of Marlos also had a dual purpose. Playing as the false nine he would vacate the forward areas and roam in between the Portuguese lines.
He would then offer an option for Ukraine to bypass Portugal’s midfield lines with him having the technical qualities to play in tight areas. His positioning also allowed Yaremchuk and Yarmolenko to move centrally and make runs out of the half-spaces.
They could either make these runs wide or towards the centre between the fullbacks and Centre backs. These were the sort of runs that brought them success with those balls in behind.
Portugal used an aggressive man-orientated press to force Ukraine into sending the ball long. This was certainly an effective ploy especially considering Ukraine’s willingness to sit without the ball. When they did drop back, they also moved to 4-5-1 shape. This midfield five wouldn’t be in a compact line necessarily but would rather man-mark.
Portugal with the ball
When building up, Portugal would have Guerreiro and Semedo push up the pitch. Danilo, as the single-pivot, would then fall back to assist Pepe and Dias during the build-up. Moutinho and Mario would usually stay advanced of Danilo to offer passing lanes between the lines.
Of the two, Mario would most frequently drop deep to get involved in the build-up. Guedes and Silva would stay wide to try to stretch the Ukraine shape. This was possible to open up the space for runs in behind the Ukraine defence.
Ukraine would use a high press infrequently and often press to deter possession in the central areas. When not in the deep block, their defensive shape would look like a 4-3-1-2. Marlos would drop back and mark Danilo while Yarmolenko and Yaremchuk would tuck in to put pressure on the Portuguese central defenders.
At times, they were able to force the ball back to Patricio and eventually long balls were played disrupting Portugal’s build-up. But this fairly narrow shape would play into Portugal use of width which will be detailed in an upcoming section. To enjoy the most exciting matches, grab your Portugal.
With them sitting so deep for long portions of the game, Ukraine had a few avenues to provide an attacking threat. Set-pieces would’ve been one they would aim to use and this gave them their opening goal. They weren’t able to generate any more chances from set-pieces for the rest of the contest.
Ukraine’s primary threat was the ball in behind the Portugal defence. The visitors employed quite a high line and left space for Ukraine to find runners. These balls were predominantly to the wingers, Yarmolenko and Yaremchuk who would make runs into the wide areas.
There they would try to beat their markers and failing that, they could start to circulate possession higher up the pitch. The space in behind didn’t have to be that vast for them to threaten as their second goal proved.
Ukraine pulled off an impressive win that wasn’t all smooth sailing. They did well to handle the barrage of crosses from attacks out wide. The hosts now sit eight points clear and already with one eye to the tournament next year.
Portugal, on the other hand, will be disappointed in defeat and needing to bounce back against Lithuania and Luxembourg. Serbia is now only a point behind them with two fixtures left, so it’ll certainly be a tense end to the group.
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