Ukraine became the final team to qualify for the quarter final stages of Euro 2020 when they overcame Sweden in a game that was largely boring for about 80 minutes but which changed course to produce another exhilarating extra time finale with the winning goal being scored in the 120th minute.
Managed by the great Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine are now faced with the daunting task of taking on an inform England in the quarter final in Rome on Saturday while Sweden join Germany, France, Portugal and Holland as top nation sides who all have made unexpected early exits from the tournament.
The early stages of the match gave no indication of the excitement that was to follow in the latter stages of the match as both sides were very cagey in their approach. The game itself was characterised by a lot of lateral passing with very little by way of inventive play from either side.
The match did go up a notch after the 27th minute when Ukraine took the lead with a goal from Manchester City player Oleksandr Zinchenko who blasted the ball to the net from the left-wing back position after good build up play by Ukraine on their right flank.
Sweden responded in a very positive fashion to that setback for the next quarter of an hour but were generally contained by the resolute Ukrainian defence.
That all changed in the 42nd minute however when the most inventive player on the pitch, RB Leipzig midfielder Emil Forsberg, struck a powerful shot from just outside the box. It took a deflection and went into the net with goalkeeper Heorhiy Bushchan left helpless by the change of direction of the ball.
The 1-1 score line at the break was a fair reflection of the opening 45 minutes with Sweden definitely finishing the first period much stronger after the boost of the equalising goal at the best possible time, just before the half time whistle.
Jan Anderson’s team came out the stronger at the start of the second half and continued to dominate the game with Forsberg being highly impressive with good displays also from Dejan Kulusevski and Kristoffer Ollson.
The injuries, substitutions and bookings started to kick in from the 80th minute and the final period of normal time was fraught with intensity as both sides tried to find the balance between not making any fatal mistake while also searching for a lead goal that would prevent the game going into extra time.
Neither side succeeded in the latter objective and Italian referee Daniele Orsato allowed three minutes of additional time before blowing the final whistle and sending the game into extra time.
The game was turned on its head midway through the first period of extra time when Swedish defender Markos Danielson was red carded.
Danielson contested a ball with Ukranian substitute Artem Besedin and while he won the ball, he was unable to prevent himself following through on Besedin’s leg and the referee immediately flashed a yellow card to the Swedish player.
Orsato then decided to check VAR on the actual tackle by Danielson and presumably considering it reckless play issued a red card.
The numerical advantage turned the game in Ukraine’s favour and they were camped in the Swedish half for all of the second period of extra time without being able to break down what was now a 10-man Swedish defence.
A penalty shoot was looming yet again, however in the 120th minute Zinchenko swung in a great cross from the left side and substitute striker Artem Dovbyk stooped low to direct a header past Robin Olsen for the winning goal.
It was another dramatic end to a Euro 2021 match and while there was still three minutes of additional time to be played after the goal, it was not enough time for a deflated Swedish team to resurrect themselves.
Ukraine now march on to Rome where they will have the tag of underdogs as they face an England side who have hit form at the right time and who have yet to concede a goal in the tournament.
Sweden: Robin Olsen; Mikael Lustig, Victor Lindelof, Marcus Danielson, Ludwig (Emil Krafth 82) Augustinsson (Pierre Bengsston 82), Sebastian Larsson (Viktor Claesson 98), Albin Ekdal, Kristoffer Olsson (Filip Hellander 101), Emil Forsberg, Dejan Kulusevski (Robin Quaison 98), Alexander Isak (Marcos Berg 98)
Subs not used: Karl-Johan Johnsson (gk), Kristoffer Nordfeldt (gk), Gustav Svensson, Ken Sema, Pontus Jansson, Jens-Lyn Cajuste.
Booked: Dejan Kulusevski (68), Emil Forsberg (84).
Sent off: Markos Danielson (98)
Ukraine: Georgiy Bushchan, Oleksandr Karavayev, Serhyi Kryvtsov, Illia Zabarnyi, Mykola Matviyenko, Mykola Shaparenko (Rusian Malinovski 60) Taras Stepanenko Yehven Makarenko 95), Serhiy Sydorchuk (Roman Bezus 117) Andriy Yarmolenko (Artem Dovbyk 105) Roman Yaremchuk (Artem Besedin 91), Viktor Tsygankov 101), Oleksandr Zinchenko.
Subs not used: Andriy Pyatov (gk); Anatolii Trubin (gk); Eduard Sobol, Marlos, Vitaliy Mykolenko, Oleksandr Tymchyk.
Booked: Andriy Yarmolonko (79).
Referee: Daniele Orsato (Italy).
Extratime Player of the Match: Emil Forsberg (Sweden)