Ukraine take on Austria in Group C of Euro 2020 on Monday.
The two nations head into the meeting level on three points after both beating North Macedonia and losing to Netherlands in their opening two matches, so a draw would almost certainly see both teams progress to the knockout stages.
After falling to Denzel Dumfries’s late winner in a pulsating 3-2 defeat to Netherlands in their opening match, Ukraine bounced back with a 2-1 win against North Macedonia on Thursday.
Andriy Yarmolenko and Roman Yaremchuk, who both scored in the defeat to Frank de Boer’s side, got themselves on the scoresheet once again during a comfortable first half, but Ezgjan Alioski’s strike before the hour mark set up a nervy finish to the game.
However, Andriy Shevchenko’s side managed to hold on to ensure that destiny remains in their own hands ahead of their last group game against Austria on Monday.
Due to having scored one more goal than the Austrians, a draw would guarantee Ukraine’s progression to the last 16 in second place, so it remains to be seen whether Shevchenko sets up his side in a more cautious manner than we have seen so far.
For Austria, then, playing for a draw would be a more risky strategy, as it would mean that they would be hoping to be one of the four best third-placed teams in order to advance in the competition.
However, it is tough to envisage any side with four points and a neutral goal difference not going through given that one or two third-placed teams from other groups are likely to only have three points (or perhaps four points with a negative goal difference).
Should Ukraine and Austria essentially play for a draw as many people are predicting, it would not be the first time the Austrian national team have been embroiled in a similarly controversial scenario.
Heading into their final group game against West Germany at the 1982 World Cup, both nations knew that a one or two-goal victory for the West Germans would guarantee both sides’ progression to the knockout stages. West Germany duly took the lead after 10 minutes, with neither side even attempting to attack for the rest of the match.
Let us hope we do not see a similar spectacle on Monday. In fairness, having comfortably been beaten 2-0 by Netherlands on Thursday, Austria manager Franco Foda may look to prioritise restoring confidence within his ranks by going for the win.