Ukraine Fail to Light Creative Spark, Lose Qualification to Austria

On a warm afternoon in Bucharest, Ukraine faced a monumental opportunity. With just one draw against Austria, Andriy Shevchenko’s team would have progressed past their Euro 2020 group. But Austria were the more clinical of the two sides managed a narrow victory that sees them qualify – leaving Ukraine, most likely, with only a few highlights as consolation.

Andriy Shevchenko opted for very few squad or technical changes from their victory over North Macedonia. The Ukrainians began in a 4-3-3 formation. Oleksandr Zinchenko was played as a left midfielder, while Ruslan Malinovskyi and Roman Yaremchuk were tasked with providing the firepower.

Austria began the match in a 4-2-3-1 that became all the narrower as the match progressed. The team’s two pivots Florian Grillitsch and Xaver Schlager contributed to the team’s negative but effective style of play in the second half.

The Ukrainians’ decision to hold on to possession into their own half backfired quickly. After a few dangerous counterattacks, Austria got their goal in their 21st minute, and Christoph Baumgartner got his first goal of the tournament from a corner taken by David Alaba.

Ukraine now knew they needed to score. However, their usually creative players seemed drained of energy and ideas throughout the rest of the match. Meanwhile, Austria continued to look threatening on the counters.

In the 87th minute, Yaremchuk created space for a shot, but it went wide. The final minutes were spent with the Ukrainians hardly able to move the ball past their halfway line.

Austria are a resilient albeit negative side. The team, however, has performed well in recent years and was rewarded with 2nd place in Group B of Euro 2020. They will now play Italy. It might prove an overly daunting task for the Austrians but the fact that they’ve erased their previous negative record in the competition cannot be overlooked.

Meanwhile, Ukraine have shown glimpses of great football. They nearly grabbed a draw in style against Netherlands. They managed a convincing victory against North Macedonia. They may still not qualify as part of the “best third-placed” teams but they’ve proven that they thoroughly deserved a place in the competition. In the end, Shevchenko’s boys fully deserved the round of applause received from the numerous Ukrainian fans in attendance.