Contrasting styles as Ukraine face Iceland

Anatoliy Kutsev wants a clean sheet above all else in Ukraine's home play-off first leg against Iceland, whose coach Siggi Eyjólfsson fears the hosts' ability to keep possession.

Ukraine hope to make it through the play-offs again
Ukraine hope to make it through the play-offs again ©

Ukraine and Iceland both made their UEFA European Women's Championship debuts in 2009 after winning play-offs – but only one will be in Sweden next summer as they come face to face over two legs.

Four years ago Ukraine saw off Slovenia and Iceland beat the Republic of Ireland before each falling at the group stage. This time they had contrasting qualifying campaigns; Iceland set the pace in Group 3 only to lose the lead in their final game with a loss in Norway, while Ukraine struggled at first in Group 5 before away victories in Slovakia, Belarus and Finland set them up for the play-offs.

At home in the first leg in Sevastopol, Ukraine coach Anatoliy Kutsev wants a clean sheet above all else. "This year we needed time to pick up the pace," the 53-year-old said. "So we eventually made sure of a play-off berth with one match to go. We have a good squad, a mixture of youth and experience. So our main task is to preserve the winning mentality we showed in recent games."

Kutsev believes the triumph in Finland last month will serve as useful preparation for facing an Iceland team with a similar physical style. "We had a rehearsal in Helsinki recently and that should be a great help," he said.

Iceland themselves cannot afford to be too physical as midfielders Edda Gardarsdóttir and Sara Björk Gunnarsdóttir, and strikers Fanndís Fridriksdóttir and Hólmfrídur Magnúsdóttir, are all one booking from missing Thursday's return in Reykjavik. Coach Siggi Eyjólfsson doubts there will be much in it.

"We are preparing for two difficult games," he said. "Ukraine are a very strong team, similar to us in strength, but they play different football to us by keeping the ball – something we have not done well enough against such sides.

"This tie really could go either way. An away draw would be a good result but it would be even better if we got a goal because away goals can really count."