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Preview: Ukraine v Northern Ireland

Michael O'Neill wants greater competitiveness from Northern Ireland while Ukraine boss Mykhailo Fomenko is hoping for "a steely mentality" as the Group C duo seek a first win.

Northern Ireland coach Michael O'Neill wants his side to be more competitive
Northern Ireland coach Michael O'Neill wants his side to be more competitive ©Panoramic
  • Michael O'Neill demands more physicality from Northern Ireland
  • Ukraine counterpart Mykhailo Fomenko wants "a steely mentality"
  • Ukraine's record against their opponents is W2 D2
  • Most recently, the teams recorded two 0-0 draws in UEFA EURO 2004 qualifying
  • Northern Ireland coach Michael O'Neill played against Ukraine in a 1-0 loss in 1996

Possible line-ups

Ukraine: Pyatov; Fedetskiy, Khacheridi, Rakitskiy, Shevchuk; Stepanenko, Sydorchuk, Kovalenko; Yarmolenko, Konoplyanka; Zozulya.

Northern Ireland: McGovern, McLaughlin, Cathcart, Evans, McAuley; Ferguson, Dallas, Davis, Norwood; Lafferty, Washington.

Mykhailo Fomenko, Ukraine coach
We need to create as many chances as we did against Germany and this time convert them. The most important thing is to recover psychologically, but the players are good and have recovered well. We're prepared physically and mentally. The players need a steely mentality.

Every team plays how it can, and I think Northern Ireland will play the same way tomorrow. We'll try to seize our opportunity and score. I think they'll apply a lot of pressure. That's the main principle of this game: apply pressure and wait for a reaction. Our players understand this perfectly.

Everything you need to know about Northern Ireland

Michael O'Neill, Northern Ireland manager
The first game was a disappointment and we've looked at that closely. The players will use that as motivation. It's not as though we're cut drift. The players' minds are focused and they're determined to do well tomorrow. We believe we're capable of playing better with the ball and stamping our authority on the game. We need to find a better balance.

The game between Ukraine and Germany was excellent. We saw the strong points of the Ukraine team. They're a threat at set pieces and had chances. We have to be prepared to match their physicality. One thing we didn't do in our game was the ugly side – and that's something we generally do well. By which I mean our level of competitiveness, because every game in this tournament has been extremely competitive.

UEFA.com team reporters
Bogdan Buga, Ukraine (@UEFAcomBogdanB)
"We need to use our brains and play football, not fight on the pitch," goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov told me yesterday, and he's absolutely right. Northern Ireland's British style of play could make it very uncomfortable for Ukraine, who will try to dominate possession and keep the ball on the ground rather than compete with big strong opponents in the air. At the same time, Ukraine will certainly look for opportunities to launch a few counterattacks down the wings, hoping to exploit Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko's pace.

Graham Little, Northern Ireland (@UEFAcomGrahamL)
The Northern Ireland team have promised their fans a positive response to Sunday's defeat by Poland when they take the field against Ukraine. The Green and White Army were always travelling more in hope than expectation, but the players feel they let them down by not playing with enough ambition or aggression.

They have promised a return to the pressing, harrying, physical style that took them on a 12-match unbeaten run before the tournament, and O'Neill said today he will pick a team to give him more "running power". So a change in approach and probably personnel seems guaranteed for a match they really need to win.

Shevchenko on Ukraine’s stars

Form guide (most recent first)
Northern Ireland: LDWWDWDWDW

Did you know?
Northern Ireland's greatest achievement to date is reaching the last eight of the 1958 FIFA World Cup, where they lost 4-0 to France in Norrkoping, Sweden. Find out more in our extensive match background.

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