Euro 2016

Cellar-dwellers will go on attack in bid to reach last 16

GROUP C

Ukraine v Northern Ireland Singtel TV Ch142 & StarHub Ch220, 11.50pm


LYON • Northern Ireland need to come out of their shell in today's Euro 2016 Group C clash against Ukraine if their first major tournament appearance for 30 years is not to end in an anti-climax.

Both sides are promising a more attacking approach than they employed in their opening games, where the Northern Irish went down 1-0 to Poland and Ukraine were dispatched 2-0 by Germany.

The Ukrainians can at least take heart from the fact they held the world champions to 1-0 until Bastian Schweinsteiger came on as a substitute and scored in stoppage time.

They also created chances of their own, at one point forcing Germany into a spectacular goal-line clearance to stay ahead.

Northern Ireland, by contrast, were a shadow of the side who qualified unexpectedly as winners of their group.

GREEN AND WHITE ARMY

We have to be more aggressive.

JONNY EVANS, Northern Ireland defender, on their approach to Ukraine.

They never looked like scoring against Poland and striker Kyle Lafferty, a lonely figure up front, lamented: "We didn't turn up."

Coach Michael O'Neill has said the squad was devastated by the death of a 24-year-old fan, Darren Rodgers, in a fall from a sea-front railing in Nice early on Monday, and wants to make today's game a "fitting tribute".

The Ukraine fixture is Northern Ireland's best and perhaps only chance to pick up points with Germany their following opponents.

BEST FORM OF DEFENCE

One thing is clear: We will attack.

ANDRIY SHEVCHENKO, Ukraine's assistant coach and former star striker, on their approach to Northern Ireland.

"We have to be more aggressive," defender Jonny Evans said.

Ukraine, who have never lost to Northern Ireland - with two wins and two draws in previous meetings, have strong attacking options of their own in pacy wingers Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka.

"We are still thinking about the starting line-up. There is time to choose the right tactics for the game but one thing is clear: We will attack. At the same time, we need to be accurate, especially at the back," assistant coach Andriy Shevchenko told the Football TV channel.

Ukraine midfielder Ruslan Rotan underlined the high stakes.

"Northern Ireland plays purely a British style, with great physical preparation, strong flanks, high crosses and lots of scrambling," he said.

"This will be a decisive game to define our prospects at the tournament."

REUTERS, AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on June 16, 2016, with the headline 'Cellar-dwellers will go on attack in bid to reach last 16'. Print Edition | Subscribe