|Attempts on target||20||21|
|Attempts off target||18||20|
It may be a tale of the unexpected, but Ukraine are the early Group B leaders going into their meeting with holders Italy in Agueda. Olexiy Mykhaylychenko's side surprised the Netherlands with a deserved victory, while the Azzurrini escaped defeat by Denmark courtesy of a last-gasp equaliser, leaving Italy coach Claudio Gentile to term Friday's game a must-win encounter.
"We have to win against Ukraine if we want to go through," he said. "It would have been much better to get three points against Denmark, and we can't afford any more mistakes." Changes will be made with two players who impressed as substitutes on Wednesday set to feature. Alessandro Rosina should replace Marino Defendi on the left wing while Giampaolo Pazzini's foot injury makes Rolando Bianchi, the point-saving goalscorer against the Danes, a possible starter. "I don't want to make excuses for our performance against Denmark," Gentile continued, "but we showed in the second half that we are a decent team. Our training has been geared to make us stronger the longer the tournament goes on."
Lack of experience
According to the coach, however, his side may be lacking both rhythm and experience compared to the title winners of 2004. "We should have played more friendlies before the tournament but we couldn't. But the biggest difference is that only three of our team are regulars at their clubs [Michele Canini, Pasquale Foggia and Marco Donadel] while two years ago they all were."
While Italy struggle with the standards set by five victories in this competition since 1992, Ukraine are simply enjoying the moment. After winning their first-ever U21 finals match, Mykhaylychenko's men received a dressing-room visit from both the Football Federation of Ukraine president and Ukraine's ambassador to Portugal. "It was great to see so many supporters from Ukraine. There are a lot of Ukrainians in Portugal and I think the majority of the fans at the ground were behind us," said the coach.
Mykhaylychenko has also received support from his senior counterpart, with Oleg Blokhin lending him striker Artem Milevskiy – who scored one and created another against the Dutch – goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov and defender Dmytro Chygrynskiy, all members of Ukraine's FIFA World Cup finals squad. "We decided it was better for these young lads to go into the World Cup with the experience of a major championship behind them," he explained. Mykhaylychenko is not entirely satisfied, though, and may start with Olexandr Aliyev in place of either Ruslan Fomin or Adrian Pukanych, both of whom caught the eye on Wednesday. Would it be expecting too much for them to do it again?
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