Tuesday, December 10, 2019

Prediction: Portugal vs Ukraine

Verdict: Portugal win and under 3.5 goals

Best Odds: 10/11

Bookmaker: Bet365

Defending European champions Portugal will look to get their qualifying campaign off to a winning start when they host Ukraine at the Estádio do Sport Lisboa e Benfica on Friday night.

Portugal

Starting with the hosts, after beating France and lifting the European title back in 2016, the mood in Portugal’s camp will be on a high. While they may have failed to make it to the quarter-finals out in Russia last summer, Fernando Santos’ side did impress during the inaugural UEFA Nations League. Marching through the whole campaign unbeaten, the Reds also booked their spot in the semi-finals of this year’s tournament. Unsurprisingly, one man to watch for the hosts will be their all-time leading goalscorer and five-time Ballon d’Or winner Cristiano Ronaldo. Recalled to Portugal’s squad for the first time since a 2-1 loss to Uruguay in the last 16 of the World Cup almost nine months ago. Enjoying a very eye-catching run on his first season with Juventus, the 34-year-old bagged a hat-trick against Atletico last week and already has 19 Serie A goals this year. Portugal will also be boosted by their recent record on home soil. Santos’ side have lost just one of their last 11 matches in front of their own fans.

Team News

Captain Cristiano Ronaldo returns to the Portugal squad for the first time since the World Cup. There are also recalls for Jose Fonte and Joao Moutinho while Benfica’s teenage star Joao Felix is called up for the first time.

Ukraine

As for the visitors, while Ukraine may have failed to book their spot in Russia last summer, Andriy Shevchenko’s side did manage to catch the eye during their exploits in the UEFA Nations League. Winning three of their four group matches, they managed to finish above both the Czech Republic and Slovakia and secure promotion to League A. If Shevchenko’s men are to pull off a surprise result and upset the defending champions, then Ukraine will need to find a way to be more prolific in the final third. With West Ham forward and second all-time leading goalscorer Andriy Yarmolenko still sidelined with injury, the Yellows have failed to score more than a single goal in one match in their last five attempts. Ukraine’s record away from home has been mixed in recent years. They lost decisive games to Iceland and Croatia in World Cup qualifying, but did manage wins in Finland and Kosovo, while in the Nations League they won in the Czech Republic before losing in Slovakia.

Team News

Ukraine coach Andriy Shevchenko could hand a debut to Brazilian-born striker Junior Moraes, with the Shakhtar Donetsk forward recently granted a Ukranian passport.

Key Factors to Consider

  • Portugal and Ukraine last played each other during the 1998 FIFA World Cup qualification period. Portugal and Ukraine split the series, when both sides earned one victory and one loss.
  • Portugal won their group in the UEFA Nations League – League A Group 1, securing two victories and two draws.
  • Ukraine won their group in the UEFA Nations League – League B Group 2, recording three victories and one loss.
  • Having won their respective groups, both sides may qualify for Euro 2020 via the UEFA Nations League playoffs.
  • If Portugal are to qualify and then retain the European title, they will become only the second team to do so after Spain.

Conclusion

While Ukraine have proven to be a tough test and did impress during the UEFA Nations League, Friday could be a tough test against a Portugal side that will be looking to defend their crown. Although the return of Cristiano Ronaldo will help them in the final third, we see Portugal coming away with a victory that could be short on goals. We’re backing the Reds to come away with the victory and under 3.5 goals this weekend.

Verdict: Portugal win and under 3.5 goals 

Best Odds: 10/11

Bookmaker: Bet365

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Tom Dunstan


Formerly of The Independent, Tom is a freelance football and boxing journalist from Essex, England. Currently working for three online publications, Tom is a graduate of the University of Falmouth and has spent the last two years writing across Australia, New Zealand and Asia. He can be followed at @IamTomDunstan

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