Tuesday, Nov 28, 2023

Euro 2020: Sweden, Ukraine Seek Quarterfinals Berth In Glasgow

Euro 2020: Sweden, Ukraine Seek Quarterfinals Berth In Glasgow

Sweden won its group ahead of Spain, while Ukraine qualified as one of the third place team from Group C

Sweden's Alexander Isak runs with teammates, during a trainging session, in Gothenburg, Sweden on Saturday, June 26, 2021. Sweden will play Ukraine in a Euro 2020 round of 16 soccer match on Tuesday. Adam Ihse/TT News Agency via AP

When Sweden and Ukraine meet in Scotland on Tuesday at the European Championship, Mikael Lustig will feel right at home.  Sweden Profile | Ukraine ProfileNews

The Sweden defender was a frequent visitor — and winner — at Hampden Park in a successful eight seasons at Celtic until leaving in 2019.

“It's amazing. I haven't been back since I left,” Lustig said ahead of returning to the city and a stadium where he won four Scottish Cup finals.

“All my friends in Glasgow, be there!”

Lustig is in rare company for the last scheduled game in the round of 16 at Euro 2020.

Sweden last played at Hampden Park 40 years ago, one month before Zlatan Ibrahimovic was born, in a World Cup qualifying match. Ukraine has made only one trip, 14 years ago for a Euro 2008 qualifier, in nearly three decades as an independent soccer nation.

Both teams lost those games against Scotland but one will leave Glasgow with their nation's first win in the knockout round of a European Championship — and set up a match against either England or Germany in the quarterfinals on Saturday in Rome.

About 10,000 fans are expected at the storied 52,000-capacity stadium in Glasgow but few will be able to travel from the two nations because of quarantine rules required by Scottish authorities.

“It is bad planning to put it in a country where no one else is allowed in,” Sweden midfielder Albin Ekdal said.

Lustig was more optimistic, saying “there are many Swedes in the U.K. I hope they get there.”

“I have many friends in Glasgow who can solve it,” said the 34-year-old defender, who won eight straight league titles with Celtic and now plays for AIK Stockholm.

Lustig shares a little history with Ukraine coach Andriy Shevchenko, the greatest player of his nation's modern soccer history. Shevchenko scored in that 3-1 loss to Scotland in 2007.

Shevchenko also scored both goals in the only previous competitive game between Ukraine and Sweden — a 2-1 win for co-host Ukraine at Euro 2012.

Lustig and current Sweden captain Sebastian Larsson both started that game, as did Andriy Yarmolenko, who is now the captain of Ukraine.

Since then, Yarmolenko has played in all of Ukraine's eight games at European Championships. The only victory was beating North Macedonia 2-1 on June 17, a result which put Ukraine into the round of 16 with the worst record of the advancing teams — three points and a negative goal difference.

Sweden won its group ahead of Spain to match coach Janne Andersson's achievement from the 2018 World Cup of leading an underestimated team to first place in a tough group.

Spain looked as if it would win the group until Sweden scored in stoppage time to beat Poland 3-2. Had the Poles won, they would have advanced instead of Ukraine.

“In the end, fate gave us a second chance,” Ukraine midfielder Oleksandr Zubkov said, “and it is a sin not to use them.” (AP)