Ukraine Euro 2024 Preview | Tactical Analysis & Pick

Ukraine Euro 2024 Preview | Tactical Analysis & Pick article feature image
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BJ Cunningham, Cyriel Klitsie/Action Network. Pictured: Oleksandar Zinchenko.

After making it to the quarterfinals of the previous Euros, Ukraine will be looking to make an even deeper run here in Germany.

The Ukrainian squad is loaded with talent all over the pitch playing at some of Europe's top leagues. That is a change from last tournament, when most of their younger talent was playing in the Ukrainian Premier League. Now, they have stars like La Liga Golden Boot winner Artem Dovbyk, Chelsea's Mykhailo Mudryk and Oleksander Zinchenko.

Ukraine finished third in their qualfying group behind England and Italy, but they beat Bosnia & Herzegovina and Iceland in the qualification playoffs to get to the Euros.

Here is my Ukraine Euro 2024 preview.

Tactical Analysis

Early on in qualification, especially in their first meeting against England, Ukraine were trying to build out of the back all the time, typically in a 3-2-5 type of shape with Zinchenko and Stepanko as the type midfielders dropping deep, but what ended up happening is they kept turning it over and they had zero success with it.

That doesn’t mean they are a bad build up team. They had a lot of success against passive teams in qualifying like North Macedonia and Malta and given the profile of teams they are going to face in this group (Romania and Slovakia), they are likely going to have a lot of success with it because they have the players to do it.

So, in the second meeting in Poland with England they decided to play much more direct, looking to get into transition moments and it had a real positive impact because their best players like Mudryk, Sudakov and Tsyganov have a lot of pace and are really good ball carriers in those direct attacking moments.

Against England in both meetings they went with a 4-4-2 mid block, but against Italy to avoid getting overloaded by Italy’s 3-2-5 countered with a 5-4-1 defensive block. With Dovbyk as the main striker you may see them in more of a 5-4-1 throughout the tournament.

It’s a very passive set up and good offensive teams eventually will create chances. Ukraine rank 22nd in the Euro field in PPDA and allowed the second-most shots per 90 minutes. There were a few instances where they pressed high in a man to man fashion, which you may see against Slovakia and Romania, but mainly they will be sitting back in a passive man marking defensive block.

The reason for playing so passively is because Ukraine doesn’t have elite ball stoppers in the middle of the pitch and when teams are able to get in transition, they can get exposed. Very rarely did they allow England or Italy to play direct and it’s one of the reasons why they got results at home against them.

ukraine-eurosukraine-pick

data via WyScout

Pick

Ukraine are going to be the darling that everyone is going to be on in this tournament, but I would throw a little flag of caution that their underlying numbers during qualifying were as bad as anyone. In fact, they had a -0.61 xGD overall, which is a big red flag, even if they are really talented. But, they got put into the easiest group, so they should make it to the knockout stage.

I don't have a bet on Ukraine as a team, but I do have a player prop, and it's a longshot. Mykhailo Mudryk to lead the tournament in assists at 200/1 is crazy good value.

Mudryk’s form and production at Chelsea has been mixed over the years, but he’s been awesome for the Ukrainian National Team.

His role with Ukraine is not that of goalscorer, but rather he’s a creator. They are always looking to get him the ball to have him dribble past opponents or utilize his pace to get in behind defenders down the left side of the pitch. From there, he typically isn’t someone that consistently cuts inside to create his shot. Especially now that Ukraine have a prolific finisher in Dovbyk, he’s usually looking for cutback crosses to him for easy tap ins.

Ukraine are in the easiest group with Belgium, Slovakia and Romania. What all three of those teams have in common is they have very poor defending right backs who will have to go 1 v 1 with Mudryk. Belgium consistently invert their right back Castagne into the midfield in build up is going to allow Mudryk tons of space to operate down the left hand side.

Historically, it only takes three or four assists to win lead the tournament, so with Ukraine having not only an easy group, but also holding a good path to the quarterfinals, there is a ton of value on Mudryk.

Pick: Mykhailo Mudryk most assists (+20000 via bet365)

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