Ukraine primed to end England World Cup bid

BUOYED by racking up the biggest win in their history just five days ago, Ukraine have every reason to be bullish about their chances of denting England’s World Cup qualifying hopes in Kiev tonight.

Eight different players scored in Friday’s 9-0 win over San Marino where Ukraine kept their fourth consecutive clean sheet and took a giant stride towards securing their own World Cup qualification for the second time since they gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.

And of the side that demolished the Sammarinese, only Zenit St Petersburg midfielder Anatoliy Tymoshchuk plays outside of the country’s Premier Division – a stark contrast to the lack of English talent gaining regular top flight action, as highlighted by Football Association chairman Greg Dyke last week.

Tymoshchuk believes his team’s togetherness can make the difference in a match where victory for Ukraine would move them above England in Group H with two matches left to play.

And with one of those a return meeting against minnows San Marino, coach Mykhaylo Fomenko’s side would be strong favourites for automatic qualification to the finals in Brazil, while Roy Hodgson would be left to contemplate a two-legged play-off in order to join them at the Copacabana.

And the magnitude of tonight’s match is not lost on Fomenko.

“Not only of mine,” he said when asked whether this was the biggest match of his life. “Because with victory this match gives us the possibility to achieve our objectives.”

Fomenko will also be boosted to see Hodgson struggling to field a fit combination of forwards, while he has a full squad to select from.

The coach has hinted at pairing Marko Devic, denied a goal despite his shot crossing the line in the Euro 2012 meeting with England, alongside Roman Zozulya in attack, with Ukraine determined to take the game to the Three Lions.

GROUP H
England’s results so far
7 September: Moldova 0 England 5

11 September: England 1 Ukraine 1

12 October: England 5 San Marino 0

17 October: Poland 1 England 1

22 March: San Marino 0 England 8

26 March: Montenegro 1 England 1

6 September: England 4 Moldova 0

England’s remaining fixtures
Tonight: Ukraine (A), 7.45pm

11 October: Montenegro (H), 8pm

15 October: Poland (H), TBC

Ukraine’s results so far
11 September: England 1 Ukraine 1

12 October: Moldova 0 Ukraine 0

16 October: Ukraine 0 Montenegro 1

22 March: Poland 1 Ukraine 3

26 March: Ukraine 2 Moldova 1

7 June: Montenegro 0 Ukraine 4

6 September: Ukraine 9 San Marino 0

Ukraine’s remaining fixtures
Tonight: England (H), 7.45pm

11 October: Poland (H), 7pm

15 October: San Marino (A), 7pm