Soccer Europe Qualification Matches 27 March 2023
England vs Ukraine - Match Preview
A game of two halves kicked off England’s European qualification campaign as the Three Lions held on for a 2-1 win in Naples after a dominant first-half display. An early goal from Declan Rice and perhaps even the result itself was overshadowed by Harry Kane’s 44th-minute penalty which took him to the top of the England goalscoring charts, surpassing the legendary Wayne Rooney. A difficult second half saw the Italians halve the deficit and the late sending off of defender Luke Shaw has given coach Gareth Southgate a selection headache for this game.
The clock is ticking on Southgate’s chance to end his England reign with some silverware, but first, they must earn a fourth straight qualification to the European Championships. Standing in their way this time around is Ukraine, a side England has lost to only once (W5, D2, L1), and that’s a record they’ll hope to improve on after averaging 5.25 goals per game at home in the previous qualification cycle when they won all four games.
A trip to Wembley will provide Ukraine’s only competitive action in this break after warming up with a 2-0 win against Brentford’s second team last time out. This will be their first competitive game since Scotland painfully pipped them to UEFA Nations League qualification, and this means caretaker boss Ruslan Rotan will be hoping for a ‘new manager bounce’ in his competitive bow.
Much like England, Ukraine is competing for their fourth straight Euro qualification and if they’re to achieve that, they’ll likely need to rely on strong travelling form once again. The Ukrainians were the only side in their group to avoid defeat in all of their away games in the previous cycle (W2, D2), including both games entered as outsiders in Serbia and Portugal!
📋 Players to watch: Ivan Toney is in line to make his long-awaited England debut here after his incredible 17-goal haul for Brentford this season - four of his last five served as team openers. Some fine early-season club form earned Mykhailo Mudryk a €100m move to Chelsea but he’s yet to score since his move to England, so this would be the ideal game for him to score his first senior goal for Ukraine!
⚡ Hot stat: England has led 1-0 at half-time in four of the previous eight H2H encounters.
Northern Ireland vs Finland - Match Preview
After beating minnows San Marino 2-0 in their Euro qualification (ECQ) opener, the real tests now begin for a Northern Ireland side seeking to qualify for the finals for a second time in three attempts. Michael O’Neill, the man who got them to Euro 2016, will therefore be hoping that his second homecoming at Windsor Park goes much better than his first, which ended in a 3-0 drubbing against Norway.
A lot has changed for the better since that gloomy day in February 2012, and while the Green and White Army’s latest UEFA Nations League (UNL) home campaign disappointed (W1, D1, L1), a perfect return of four home shutouts during their unsuccessful 2022 World Cup qualification campaign (W1, D3) shows what they are capable of at the back.
A chastening 3-1 away loss to ECQ Group H top seeds Denmark was not the start Finland would have hoped for, as they strive to make it to a second successive Euro finals. And it gets no easier, as Finland prepares to make their first trip to Belfast since March 2015, when the Eagle-Owls suffered a 2-1 defeat en route to a failed thrust for Euro 2016.
That result made it three losses in as many competitive away H2Hs for Finland, and February 2003 still marks the only previous time they’ve won at Windsor Park at all. Meanwhile, the team’s more recent away form overall provides a very mixed outlook, with no draws in competitive trips abroad made since the end of Euro 2020 (W3, L4).
📋 Players to watch: Dion Charles’ first goalscoring international appearance was hugely memorable on Thursday, as he netted both of Northern Ireland’s goals against San Marino. As for the visitors, Benjamin Källman rounded off the scoring in Finland’s final UNL trip of 2022 (W 2-0 vs Montenegro), meaning that all of his three competitive international goals to date have been his team’s second and final of the day.
⚡ Hot stat: Five of Finland’s last seven games have produced exactly two total match goals.
Slovakia vs Bosnia & Herzegovina - Match Preview
It was a frustrating start to the UEFA European Championships qualification cycle for Slovakia, who opened their competitive 2023 schedule with a goalless draw against Luxembourg to end a run of four straight wins in their opening game of a new Euro qualifying cycle. Euro 2016 and 2020 are the only two editions Slovakia have qualified for as an independent nation and they’ll leave themselves a lot of catching up to do behind Portugal and Bosnia & Herzegovina if they lose here.
Finishing in the qualification placings in Group J will be no easy task for a Slovakia side that has been on a downward spiral since those back-to-back qualifications and a last-16 appearance at the 2010 World Cup. Searching for his first win as national team boss (D4, L1), Francesco Calzona and his Falcons side somehow need to reverse their recent form and find a win in what could already be classified as a crucial game for their chances.
Bosnia’s quest for a historical first appearance at a European Championship got off to a flying start as they brushed Iceland aside by a 3-0 scoreline in the opener. That result ensured the continuation of their good form after they ended 2022 by earning a promotion to the UEFA Nations League A, with that ranking already securing a guaranteed play-off spot for Euro 2024!
New manager Faruk Hadžibegić would prefer it doesn't come to that and improving on their woeful travelling record in European qualifiers will be high on his list of priorities in order to achieve that. Bosnia had picked up just three of their 13-point haul on foreign soil in the previous cycle (W1, L4), yet with five goals and two wins from their only two trips to Slovakia, confidence should be high.
📋 Players to watch: Providing an assist in Slovakia’s only-ever victory over Bosnia back in 2013, veteran Juraj Kucka’s goal in an eventual 2-2 draw with Montenegro in November was Slovakia’s last in over three hours of play. Bosnian midfielder Rade Krunić scored twice before half-time against Iceland, which is incredible considering he’s scored just once for club side AC Milan since the beginning of 2021/22!
⚡ Hot stat: Slovakia is on their joint-longest run of draws (D4) and the last such streak ended with that 1-0 win over Bosnia in 2013!
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