A match perhaps without the flare of the earlier battle between Germany and England, Sweden will meet Ukraine for the right to move onto the quarterfinals. Two countries who aren’t exactly known for their prowess on the pitch, both Sweden and Ukraine can cement themselves on the map of English soccer with a win. This match won’t get the publicity or the fanfare of the Germany vs. England match, or of really any match in the Round of 16, but it very well could be among the most exciting.
Germany vs. England: Euro 2020 Odds & Game Pick >>
I can’t imagine many people had the Ukrainians in the knockout round, and it doesn’t matter how they got there or what breaks fell their way; they’re here, and anything can happen. Ukraine finished with a minus-1 goal differential and actually lost two of their three matches en route to a third-place finish in Group C.
Their lone victory was against North Macedonia, who came into the tournament as one of the heaviest underdogs to make it out of the group round. As far as per game averages are concerned, Ukraine tallied 9.7 shot attempts per game, which is actually 0.4 per game ahead of unbeaten Sweden. They also controlled possession for 47.8% of their first three matches, and while not an overly impressive number, a near 50/50 split against Sweden will keep them right within striking distance.
Perhaps the most impressive stat for Ukraine is their 83.5% passing accuracy. It seems they want to deploy a very simple, low-risk style of play so as not to expose themselves to counter-attacks but also to move the ball up the pitch at their pace strategically.
The Swedes are riding high heading into the knockout round, having not yet suffered a loss, but there’s a difference between confidence and overconfidence. Sweden cannot take Ukraine lightly; they can be confident, they can play with an edge, but they can’t take the field expecting to win. If they do, they’re in for a rude awakening.
Sweden kept two clean sheets in their first three matches and finished with two wins and a draw. Their plus-2 goal differential was still three net goals behind Spain, but they conceded just two goals in the entire group stage and should be poised to play more of the same strong defense against Ukraine. Emil Forsberg has been Sweden’s most dynamic player, scoring three of the team’s four goals in the group round. He’ll have his chances on Tuesday, and with the Golden Boot firmly in sight, look for him to bury one.
Emil Forsberg has now scored 3 goals in his last 4 games for Sweden #EURO2020 https://t.co/OktXqVz4yD pic.twitter.com/ib7brW0NL6
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 23, 2021
Sweden’s metrics aren’t overly impressive, and while they may have the pure skill to get past Ukraine, it won’t work against the winner of England and Germany. They’ve controlled just 35.3% of possession and connected on only 69.9% of passes. The lack of ball control leads them to try and make more difficult passes, affecting their shot attempts (just 9.3 per game).
Nothing is easy in Euro 2020. Just ask France. Ukraine is not to be counted out in this match by any means, and while their draw could have been much tougher in the knockout stage, they’re still the noticeably weaker of the two sides. Sweden should continue to hold the fort and limit Ukraine’s chances, and their talent should win out late in the game when legs start getting a little heavy. I don’t expect a blowout at all, but I expect Sweden to control most of this match, sans a few surges from the Ukrainians. I’ll take Sweden to move on to the quarterfinals.
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