Four years on from when both Poland and Ukraine co-hosted Euro 2012 and suffered the ignominy of being knocked out at the group stages, things have changed somewhat – for Poland at least. Having already picked four points, it would take an unusual run of results for the Poles not to make it to the knockout stages.
Ukraine, by contrast, appear to have stagnated and their dismal 2-0 defeat to Northern Ireland in the previous game, indicated divisions within the camp.
“The players were not united today,” coach Mykhaylo Fomenko said after that loss. “I think we weren’t prepared enough in psychological matters.”
Poland, who drew 0-0 with Germany in their previous game, are guaranteed a place in the knock-out stage if they avoid defeat. Even if they lose and Northern Ireland win, four points is likely to be enough to qualify to the last 16 as one of the four best third place teams.
Regardless of tonight’s result, Ukraine will finish bottom and are already out.
Fomenko, who has come under pressure after a poor tournament, has yet to make up his mind about his postition.
“My players understand they have one more game to go in such a huge tournament and they’ll do everything to correct the mistakes they’ve made in previous matches,” he said. “They will try to play as they should have done.
“I don’t have anything to complain about because the players prepared very well. I will take a decision about my future after the tournament. We say sorry to our supporters and I think my players will try to improve the relationship between the national team and the fans.
“It’s not very good to make a lot of changes to the team, but there will definitely be some.”
Meanwhile, his Polish counterpart, Adam Nawałka, is focued solely on picking up three points.
“This is now our most important match – that’s our approach,” he said. “Ukraine are a good side with highly talented players. They appear in European competitions with their clubs, so that’s why we need to be well-prepared, both emotionally and tactically.
“It’s important that everyone is ready and I can rely on them. The decision [on the line-up] is always made after the final training session, and that will be the same tonight. I don’t want to talk about where we want to finish; it’s the three points that matter.
“There were periods against Germany when Ukraine created chances to equalise. They carry a threat at set pieces and played very well that day. This shows they are strong.”
Ukraine goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov could lose out to Denys Boyko after two unconvincing displays against Germany and Northern Ireland.
As Ukraine are already out of Euro 2016, coach Mykhalo Fomenko may be tempted to make wholesale changes to his team.
Poland keeper Wojciech Szczesny again misses out with a thigh injury.
Kamil Grosicki, Bartosz Kapustka, Krzysztof Maczynski, Lukasz Piszczek and Slawomir Peszko are all one booking away from a suspension.
Ukraine: Boyko; Butko, Khacheridi, Kucher, Shevchuk; Rybalka, Rotan, Garmash; Yarmolenko, Konoplyanka; Zozulya.
Poland: Fabiański; Cionek, Glik, Pazdan, Jędrzejczyk; Błaszczykowski, Krychowiak, Zieliński, Kapustka; Milik, Lewandowski.