Ukraine vs England result: Qualification a formality but Gareth Southgate has issues to fix to triumph at Euro 2024

Qualification may be a formality for England, but a 1-1 draw against Ukraine showed Gareth Southgate’s team selection is not. The manager still has a few issues to sort out if he is to overcome this huge challenge of winning trophies next summer. This game must still be marked by the enthusiasm of the nominal home team, as an admirable Ukrainian team turned the enthusiasm of the tens of thousands who traveled to the Wroclaw Stadium in Poland into a magnificent performance.

This made this entire event something very special, far beyond a European Championship qualifier, which I was often privileged to witness. The moment of Zinchenko’s opening goal was uplifting.

For that reason, England could perhaps be forgiven for going a little cold in a game that would have seen them as just another step towards inevitable qualification. That was something different for Ukraine. It was a national event.

If Gareth Southgate wants to make Euro 2024 a national event for England, he will certainly have to contend with conversations in the build-up to the game, and he certainly has problems that this game made clear. The formation didn’t work for these players. James Maddison was missing on the wing and he needs a different role to really maximize Jude Bellingham.

The defense wasn’t exactly watertight, but that could have something to do with Ukraine’s rare dynamism.

Southgate had actually spoken on the eve of the game about how qualifying for England is rarely a challenge these days, at least in terms of exposure, and that one of the challenges is keeping the team fit. Ukraine’s approach helped immediately.

Driven by the enthusiasm of the crowd and an emotionally stirring performance of the national anthem, Sergei Rebrov’s team immediately took action against England. There were long periods when it seemed as if Southgate’s players couldn’t keep up with the intensity of the Ukrainians. England struggled to hold onto the ball as the two ball players, Bellingham and Maddison, were outpaced. The bumpy pitch didn’t help.

Ukraine’s opening goal still had admirable smoothness, clean lines and speed. Yukhym Konoplya burst down the flank and scorched England’s left side. The ball was cut back and with bodies running in opposite directions, Zinchenko arrived to deflect the ball past Jordan Pickford.


It was hard not to imagine what it will be like when this team finally gets to play in Kiev again. The noise was wonderful.

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England rarely reached such a level. To make a better move, the ball was worked to Maddison as he appeared ready to run just past the goal, but his contact with the ball was poor and the chance was wasted.

It perhaps reflected something more revealing about Southgate’s setup. Maddison has excelled for Tottenham Hotspur this season by playing much further back as it allowed him to do more damage. He was mostly just a winger.

Part of the problem for Maddison, however, is something more fundamental to the team. It’s also almost the opposite of his situation. Harry Kane willingly drops into the space that Maddison would normally occupy, and much of England’s attack revolves around that.

The FC Bayern Munich striker, who was still getting used to it, then showed exactly why that was the case. Just before halftime, he picked up the ball in the same area and threw it to Kyle Walker.

From what the full-back did next, you wouldn’t have thought it was his first international goal. Walker took the ball, controlled it and then shot past Georgiy Bushchan.

If one could have expected this to be the platform for England to assert their superiority, then it didn’t turn out that way. Although they got the ball more often, the Ukrainians’ robustness meant that they didn’t create many chances. The system didn’t really work for these players in the attacking zone. It was no surprise that Southgate ended up eliminating Maddison and Bellingham, even if the latter is the future of the team. He was another one who didn’t stand out in a slightly different role.


This may be one of the problems in Southgate’s England, which goes beyond any criticism of conservatism. It’s more about a certain rigidity in positioning.

England, of course, remain in first place in the group. That should not be a problem. However, the goal now is something much bigger.

However, this game was about something much more important for Ukraine.

Emma Bowman

Emma Bowman is a USTimesPost U.S. News Reporter based in London. His focus is on U.S. politics and the environment. He has covered climate change extensively, as well as healthcare and crime. Emma Bowman joined USTimesPost in 2023 from the Daily Express and previously worked for Chemist and Druggist and the Jewish Chronicle. He is a graduate of Cambridge University. Languages: English. You can get in touch with me by emailing

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