With England and Spain also in their group, the two teams will have to go for a win in this match as any other result would see their chances of reaching the semi-finals suffer a big blow. Czech Republic look like the slight favourites, but Ukraine definitely have the potential to get something from this match.
The only undefeated side in the qualifiers
While the senor national team continue to struggle Czech Republic youth teams have no problems reaching the final tournaments within their respective age group, with Jakub Dovalil’s side qualifying to the Under-21 Euro in Denmark in great style. The team easily topped the group that also contained sides like Germany and Northern Ireland, winning 7 and drawing just 1 qualifying game before recording a 5:0 aggregate win over Greece in the play-offs. Coach Jakub Dovalil was delighted to see his key players in great form over the last season, with Jan Lecjaks, Ondrej Mazuch, Marek Suchy, Jan Moravek, Libor Kozak and Tomas Pekhart playing really well in strong European leagues. Czech Republic already beat Ukraine in a friendly in October, while they also beat Netherlands and Belarus, losing only to France in Olomuc.
Vaclav Kadlec and Adam Hlousek are fit to play after shaking off minor knocks, but Jan Moravek is a doubt with a hamstring problem.
Just like Czech Republic, Ukraine youth teams have had a lot of success lately, so nobody was surprised to see the Under 21 side reach the final tournament. Pavlo Yakovenko’s side also finished the qualifying campaign unbeaten, having won four and drawn as many games, after which they managed to eliminate Netherlands in the play-offs, winning the first leg away 3:1 and losing the return leg at home 2:0. This Ukraine squad boast several footballers playing their trade for strongest domestic clubs, such as Yaroslav Rakitskiy, Taras Stepanenko and Andriy Yarmolenko, but the biggest problem is that the majority of players from this squad is not getting enough playing time at club level, which can be a big problem against very good Czech Republic side.
Captain Taras Stepanenko has recovered from a groin problem and he should be fit to feature, giving boss Pavlo Yakovenko clean bill of health.
Czech Republic have really impressed in the qualifiers as well as the play-offs and the fact that their key players are getting regular action at their respective clubs should give them the upper hand over Ukraine. Pavlo Yakovenko’s side failed to impress in the build up to this tournament, and I don’t think they can stop the Czechs from winning this match.
Our prediction: Czech Republic with -0.25 Asian handicap
Odds: 2.05 (21/20)