Men's Team

Zinchenko: We need the game of our lives to beat England

Oleks Zinchenko has called for Ukraine to produce the performance of a lifetime as they do battle with England for a spot in the Euro 2020 semi-finals.

Andriy Shevchenko’s side have already made history by reaching this stage, having won their first ever European Championships knockout match against Sweden.

Zinchenko set up Artem Dovbyk’s 121st-minute winner to help book Ukraine’s spot in Saturday evening’s clash with the Three Lions, and the City man is hoping they can conjure up another surprise in Rome.

Nonetheless, he admits that they face a daunting task if they’re to get the better of England, who are yet to concede at the tournament.

“The numbers speak for themselves. The fact that England hasn’t conceded any goals yet, they’ve played very well in defence,” he conceded in a pre-match press conference.

“But I think that there are no perfect teams, every team has weaknesses.

“We will try to surprise them but of course we realise that to get through, the whole team needs to probably play the best game of our lives.”

Zinchenko will line up against several familiar faces, with City's England quartet John Stones, Kyle Walker, Raheem Sterling and Phil Foden all in contention to feature for Gareth Southgate’s side.

The Ukrainian has previously insisted that friendships will go out of the window when the action gets underway but took the time out to praise defensive duo, Stones and Walker, for their Euro 2020 performances so far.

He reflected: “With regards to Walker and Stones, they’ve had an amazing season.

“During the last couple of years that I’ve been playing with them they’ve played at a very high level.

“It will not be easy but at this stage of the tournament everything is possible and I think that the coaching team will explain to us what to do with it and we will do our best.”

Zinchenko has become a key cog in his national team's well-oiled machine, perhaps the culmination of a truly remarkable seven-year journey which began when he was forced to flee a war-torn Ukraine at just 17.

The now 24-year-old insists that he’ll never lose sight of where he’s come from, and will use that as added motivation to try and see Andriy Shevchenko’s side over the line.

“I think that every footballer who is at this stage of tournament as I am now went through a very big journey,” he reflected.

“Of course, before I go to the pitch tomorrow I will be thinking about that journey that I had to get here.

“And of course I’ll feel a lot of responsibility because every footballer represents their country.

“I’ve said before, that for me it’s a massive honour to wear the Ukrainian kit.”