Soccer-Ukraine must dig deep in crunch game, says Shevchenko

FILE PHOTO: Soccer Football - Euro 2020 - Group C - Netherlands v Ukraine - Johan Cruyff Arena, Amsterdam, Netherlands - June 13, 2021 Ukraine coach Andriy Shevchenko Pool via REUTERS/John Thys

BUCHAREST (Reuters) - Ukraine need to shrug off the disappointment of conceding a stoppage-time goal in their 3-2 defeat by the Netherlands in Euro 2020 and shift the focus to the crunch game against North Macedonia on Thursday, head coach Andriy Shevchenko said.

Having erased a 2-0 deficit against the Dutch in their opening Group C match on Sunday, the Ukrainians were sunk by a late Denzel Dumfries header in Amsterdam when it seemed they had done enough to earn a draw.

Although Shevchenko was pleased with his team's fightback, he conceded the game's relentless pace took its toll on the players.

"Many of the lads were empty vessels after the match with the Netherlands, we will see how many of them will be able to recuperate sufficiently for the game against North Macedonia," Shevchenko told Ukrainian media.

"We knew even before the tournament this would be the pivotal game of the group stage."

Shevchenko stressed Ukraine would try to take a leaf out of Austria's book after their opening 3-1 win over the North Macedonians, who are playing their first major tournament as an independent nation.

"We will watch the tape and screen all the things the Austrians did right," Shevchenko said. "We still have two games left and we need to cling on to every chance."

North Macedonia wing back Ezgjan Alioski said the Balkan nation must learn from their mistakes after conceding two goals in the last 20 minutes against the Austrians.

"The match against Ukraine is like a cup final because it's a must-win situation for both teams but no matter what, we need to keep enjoying the tournament and have fun," Alioski told a news conference on Tuesday.

"We have to recover quickly from the defeat by Austria though and we don't have much time. It is essential that we believe that we can win although Ukraine are the favourites.

"They are a great attacking side full of top quality individuals and it will take a tactically sound defensive effort to thwart them."

North Macedonia play the Netherlands in their final group match in Amsterdam on Monday and Ukraine meet Austria in Bucharest.

(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic; Additional reporting by Gabrielle Tetrault-Farber; Editing by Ed Osmond)

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