The reality is that all Northern Ireland’s group rivals will see matches against them as providing a big opportunity to claim three points against, in the knowledge that a single victory might well be sufficient to ensure a place in the last 16 as a result of the new convoluted (and hugely unsatisfactory) qualification process.
Michael O’Neill might regard this game as Northern Ireland’s best opportunity of getting some points on the board himself. Ukraine has some very talented players, but as a team they can be inconsistent. Should they have lost heavily to Germany in their opening game, their self-belief could be in doubt.
O’Neill has a limited pool of players to select from as it is and suffered a major blow when one of his most reliable, West Bromwich Albion’s Chris Brunt, was ruled out of the Euro 2016 finals through injury. It’s the lack of depth to O’Neill’s squad to cover for injuries and any possible suspensions that could prove damaging to their hopes of progress.
The Ukraine v Northern Ireland betting odds will clearly favour Ukraine, but it will pay to wait until after both of their opening group games before getting too heavily involved here.
In four previous meetings Ukraine has won twice with the other two games being drawn. There have only been four goals scored in those games, with Northern Ireland having mustered just one of them.
With the distinct possibility that both these teams will have lost their opening games, they could both need to throw caution to the wind here in a desperate search for three points. It could pay to focus your attention on their being a few goals with any available Ukraine v Northern Ireland free bets.