Our match prediction:
Ukraine crashed out from the Euro 2016 in flames following three group defeats to Germany, Poland and Northern Ireland. A disappointing showing in France resulted in Fomenko’s resignation which saw Ukraine legend Andriy Shevchenko being promoted from assistant to head coach somewhat unexpectedly and surprisingly. Former world class striker is tasked with a daunting task of getting his country to their second-ever World Cup appearance. The Zbirna previously attempted to qualify on five occasions and the country is hoping that former Milan and Chelsea striker Shevchenko will spur the team forward. Euro 2016 surprise package Iceland will indeed be a great challenge after their impressive showings in France. Having survived Portugal, Hungary and defeated Austria in the group stage of the competition, Iceland beat England 2-1 in the knockouts before seeing their odyssey end in the quarter-finals at the hands of France 5-2. It has nevertheless been an inspiring journey for Heimir Hallgrimsson and Lars Lagerback, who will be keen to use the momentum and positive atmosphere around the national team and build on the success. A win over Ukraine would be a step in the right direction.
Highligted Player (Konoplyanka):
Arguably the most talented footballer to have worn the Ukraine jersey since Andriy Shevchenko, Yevhen Konoplyanka is a creative midfielder who can play on either wing as well as through the middle. The talented footballer started attracting interest from abroad soon after coming through the youth ranks at Dnipro, but he resisted temptation to join a top European club and waited for his contract to expire before signing a four-year deal with Europa League holders Sevilla. As expected, Konplyanka quickly proved his worth at Estadio Ramon Sanchez Pizjuan, scoring important goals in La Liga and Europe during his debut season. Together with Andriy Yarmolenko, he has formed one of the best wing partnerships in international football, scoring 11 goals in his first 50 appearances for the national team. After starting all three games at the Euro 2012 on home soil, Konoplyanka helped Zbirna qualify for the Euro 2016 finals, netting two times in eleven qualifiers as Ukraine defeated Slovenia in the play-offs.
Highlighted Team (Iceland):
Iceland had little to no success during the first 60 years of entering the FIFA competitions, failing to qualify to a single major tournament in that period, but the team then went on to make tremendous progress at the start of the 21st century. The Nordic side narrowly missed out on a place at the 2014 World Cup, losing in the play-off to Croatia, but they then enjoyed a thoroughly impressive qualifying campaign to reach the Euro 2016 finals, taking 20 points from 10 matches to leave Turkey and Netherlands trailing in their wake. As a result, the generation featuring players like Gylfi Sigurdsson, Aron Gunnarsson, Kolbeinn Sigthorsson and Emil Hallfredsson will go down as one of the most successful in the national team history and it could be quite some time before another team repeat their success. Even if he was only used as a bit-part player during the Euro 2016 qualifiers, Eidur Gudjohnsen has got to be mentioned as the first Icelandic footballer to have played for top European sides.