In the first round of European Championship Qualification – Group C matches, Ukraine drew against a good Slovakia side at home, with a few key players missing, while Belarus lost to lowly Luxembourg on the road.
Ukraine narrowly missed out on this past summer’s World Cup tournament, after losing to France in the qualification playoffs. Ukraine had won the first leg against France 2-0 at home, but lost the second leg in France 0-3. Ukraine was down by two goals in that fixture, before defender Khacheridi was ejected for a second yellow in the 47th minute. That match could have ended differently, had it not been for the red card. Everyone remembers how solid France was in the World Cup.
Ukraine is W4 L1 in their last five matches, in all competitions, on the road. The one road loss came against France in last years aforementioned World Cup qualifier playoff second leg. Ukraine was undefeated in all five matches in their World Cup qualifying group: W4 D1. Belarus is W2 L4 in their last six competitive matches at home.
Ukraine’s record in the seven encounters against Belarus is W3 D3 L1. Four out of those seven encounters came in the 2002 and 2010 World Cup qualifying campaigns, in which Ukraine’s record was W2 D2. Ukraine did not concede even one goal in those four matches. The lone Belarus win came in a 2002 friendly. Ukraine has never lost in Belarus is W1 D2.
Influential FC BATE striker Vitali Rodionov will be out with injury for Belarus, along with goalkeeper Alexander Gutor. Defender Sergei Politevich is also out for Belarus, but he’s not a regular starter. Ukraine will be boosted with the return of three key players. Yevhen Khacheridi will return from suspension, along with Ruslan Rotan and No.10 Yevhen Konoplyanka.
While Spain is favored to win Group C, Ukraine will be battling it out with Slovakia for second place and automatic qualification. Belarus will most likely not finish any higher than fourth in the group. In five attempts, Belarus has never qualified for a European Championship – nor a World Cup.
Pick: Ukraine is just a better quality team than Belarus, and it’s not even close. The Ukrainian league is far superior to the Belarusian league. Ukraine has historically dominated Belarus; and must grab all three points if they are going to keep up with Slovakia in the group. Ukraine to win is a tasty +129 (5Dimes), and I will be backing them with confidence.