Monday, May 29, 2023

England 2-0 Ukraine: What Did We Learn As The Three Lions Breeze Their Way To Consecutive Qualifying Victories At Wembley?

Tom Dunstan in Editorial, European Championships 26 Mar 2023

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Putting in what was a routine display at Wembley on Sunday evening, England cruised their way to a 2-0 victory against Ukraine and secured back-to-back qualifying wins.

While England’s Group C rivals might have put in a rugged performance for large spells of the first-half, it was the record-breaking Harry Kane who opened the scoring in the 37th minute.

Only days removed from becoming the Three Lions’ all-time leading goalscorer after converting from the spot out in Italy on Thursday, Gareth Southgate didn’t have to wait long for his side to double their advantage.

With the red-hot Bukayo Saka producing a wonderful whipped effort just three minutes after Kane’s opener, England largely didn’t need to get out of third gear on home soil.

Really impressing during this month’s international break and clinching back-to-back Group C wins, the mood around Wembley should be at a recent high.

Breezing past a Ukraine squad who will still have their sights set on punching their own European Championship ticket this year, what did we learn from Sunday’s showdown in the capital?

England still stand among the world’s elite

Eventually having to settle for a World Cup quarter-final finish out in Qatar over the winter, England once again found themselves under a huge amount of scrutiny.

Still yet to lift an international crown since their World Cup success back in 1966, many had questioned whether Southgate was the man to take England’s talented squad forward.

However, with the FA making it publically clear that they still back Southgate and were desperate to tie the 52-year-old down to a new deal, it was crucial that England made an early statement this month.

With some wondering if the Three Lions could show some signs of a post-World Cup hangover, the European giants have certainly impressed over the past few days.

Putting in a famous display away at reigning European champions Italy on Thursday night as they snatched a 2-1 victory in Naples, Southgate really couldn’t have wished for a better Group C start.

Never in any real danger of getting hit with a shock here, England have proven that they still deserve to be considered among the world’s elite.

Saka has become instrumental for England

Although the record-breaking Kane might have notched his 52nd international strike on Sunday evening, it is another north London superstar who really caught the eye here.

Producing a wonderful strike to double England’s lead just three minutes after Kane’s opener, Saka has certainly underlined his status as one of Southgate’s main men.

Heading into this month’s international break by bagging a brace as Arsenal clinched a 4-1 romp against Crystal Palace last weekend, the 21-year-old has quickly become one of Europe’s hottest prospects.

Leaving the Middle East over the winter with three World Cup goals to his name and receiving a string of plaudits, Saka will have a crucial role to play in England’s qualifying adventure this year.

Seen as one of the leading contenders to claim this season’s PFA Young Player of the Year award, Arsenal’s homegrown star will now turn his attention back to making real Premier League history in 2023.

Easier tests await for Ukraine

Only managing to squeeze in a friendly battle against Brentford’s reserves before they made the trip to Wembley on Sunday evening, Ukraine will have been more than aware that they faced a huge challenge here.

While Group C hopefuls might have included the likes of Oleksandr Zinchenko and Mykhailo Mudryk in their starting XI, they failed to muster a single shot on target and left the capital without making any kind of statement.

However, while Ukraine might have been left heartbroken in Cardiff last year as they failed to punch their World Cup ticket, interim boss Ruslan Rotan will know that far easier tests await.

Impressing many during their Nations League flurry last year, Sunday’s guests will know that they should face a heavyweight tussle with Italy to clinch that second qualifying spot.

Glad to see the back of Wembley and now focus their attention on a crucial international break in June, Ukraine will be next seen when they met North Macedonia and Malta.

Match Report

England: Pickford, Walker, Stones, Maguire, Chilwell, Henderson, Rice, Bellingham, Saka, Kane, Maddison

Subs: Grealish, Gallagher, Toney,

Ukraine: Trubin, Karavayev, Svatok, Matviyenko, Mykolenko, Zinchenko, Stepanenko, Malinovskyi, Sudakov, Mudryk

Subs: Sobol, Konoplyanka, Dovbyk, Tsyhankov, Buyalskyi

Goals: Kane (37′), Saka (40′)

Yellow Cards: Malinovskyi

Red Cards: N/A

Referee: Serdar Gozubuyuk


Tom Dunstan

Formerly of The Independent, Tom has spent the past six years as one of our senior writers and betting experts. Alongside working with numerous publications from across the globe, Tom also graduated from the University of Falmouth in 2014 with a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Digital Media.
Spending almost the past decade working in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and Canada, he has also spent time featuring in sports radio. Tom can be followed on Instagram - @iamtomdunstan



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