ROME (AP) – After defeating historic rivals Germany in the round of 16, facing Ukraine may seem like an easier proposition for England.
It turns out, however, that Saturday’s quarter-final match at the Stadio Olimpico could be England’s toughest test of the European Championship.
That’s because it’s the only Euro 2020 match England will have to play away from the friendly Wembley Stadium.
To complicate matters, the Italian government has explicitly warned Britain-based English fans to stay away from the game unless they can prove they have observed five days of quarantine since arriving.
For a team like England which are known for their traveling supporters, this is a big blow. But coach Gareth Southgate saw it in a positive light.
“I actually think it’s good to be leaving Wembley now,” Southgate said. âIt would have been difficult to reproduce the atmosphere we had the other day (four) days later. And I think having a different goal, a different environment, a different kind of challenge is good for us. “
To add to the challenge, winger Bukayo Saka, who started against Germany, received a “slight blow” in training on Friday, Southgate said, leaving his status questionable.
Due to the pandemic, the Olimpico can only be filled to 25% for a total of around 16,000 fans.
Ukrainian residents also face restrictions on traveling to Italy.
“It is clearly not helping football, but we are well aware of the situation,” said Ukrainian coach Andriy Shevchenko before encouraging the Ukrainians based in Italy to attend the game.
Shevchenko added that he hoped Italian fans “will also support Ukraine”.
“I think Ukraine deserves the sympathy of the fans for how well they played, how hard they tried this tournament,” Shevchenko said. “Tomorrow at the stadium, we’ll see who supports who better.”
The winner between Ukraine and England will face Denmark or the Czech Republic in the semi-final on Wednesday at Wembley, with the final also scheduled at the England stadium.
For Ukrainian coaches, playing in Italy is a homecoming.
Shevchenko was one of Serie A’s most prolific goalscorers during his playing career with AC Milan, while assistant coach Mauro Tassotti is from Rome and started his playing career at Stadio Olimpico with Lazio before embarking on a long and successful career in Milan as a player and assistant coach.
“If the Italians support us because we are the weaker team, great,” said Tassotti. “I really hope the fans give us a lot of support.”
Still, Tassotti admitted beating England is a “titanic challenge”.
“But we have seen what has happened in recent days with the Netherlands and France,” Tassotti told Gazzetta dello Sport. “England have a lot of talent but they have also had the advantage, like other nations, of only playing at home.”
Expect an old-fashioned Italian “catenaccio” (lockdown defense) and a counterattacking approach from Ukraine to face talented England strikers Raheem Sterling and Harry Kane, who scored the goals in the 2-0 victory over Germany.
Tassotti said the tactic would be to “smother” England, “close the gaps” and “stop them from running”.
âThese are the types of games that they don’t like. They have talent but we have to try to force them to think as much as possible and only then take advantage of our talent, âadded Tassotti. âIf we think we can play them directly given all their talent, we won’t get very far. “
If Ukraine can get into the opposing half of the field, the attack should go through Andriy Yarmolenko, who plays in England for West Ham.
Likewise, Oleksandr Zinchenko is Sterling’s Manchester City teammate.
Having barely made it through the group stage, it will be the first quarter-final match of the European Championship of Ukraine.
England are looking to match their performance at the 2018 World Cup, when they reached the semi-finals. The last time England reached the last four of the European Championship was in 1996.
But England’s biggest goal at this point is to replicate the success of the 1966 squad that won the World Cup and won the trophy at home.
âWe just need to be on our A game,â Pickford said. âWe know it will be a tough game. Every game is tough, so we’ll be ready.
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