By Ian S. Palmer
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Ukraine will be hosting Slovenia at the Arena Lviv in Lviv this Saturday, November 14 in the opening match of their two-legged Euro 2016 playoff qualifying series. The two teams will then meet in the second game in Slovenia on Tuesday, November 17. The series will be a total aggregate affair with the away-goals rules in effect. If the series is tied after the second game the match will go to 30 minutes of extra time. If there’s still no winner it will then be decided by a penalty shootout.
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- Pinnacle Sports lists Ukraine as the favorite in this match at -164 with Slovenia +647 and a draw at +275
Ukraine vs Slovenia – Head to Head:
- Ukraine is out for revenge in this short series as Slovenia eliminated them during the Euro 2000 qualifying playoffs 16 years ago. This will be the sixth playoff series Ukraine has had to enter to reach a major soccer tournament and they’ll also be attempting to beat Slovenia for the first time ever. The two nations have met just four times in the past with Slovenia winning twice and drawing the other two meetings. Slovenia beat Ukraine 2-1 at home in the 1999 series and then came out of Kyiv with a 1-1 draw to win the series 3-2 on aggregate. Slovenia was managed by Srecko Katanec in their series 16 years ago and he’s managing the club again this time around.
Ukraine finished in third place in Group C behind Spain and Slovakia and with six wins, a draw and three losses. They scored 14 goals and allowed four against. Slovenia placed third in Group E behind England and Switzerland with five victories, one draw and four defeats. They managed to score 18 times and conceded 11. Ukraine had won three consecutive group matches at home until Spain shut them out 1-0 in their last fixture. Meanwhile, Slovenia won twice and lost three times on the road in their group campaign. Ukraine has played in just one European Championship, which was the Euro 2012 event they co-hosted with Poland. Slovenia’s lone previous appearance came in 2000.
Ukraine has played in one previous European Championship playoff round and that was the loss to Slovenia in 1999. However, they’ve also participated in four World Cup playoff series. Unfortunately, they were also defeated in all of them. They were denied a berth in the 1998 tournament by losing 3-1 on aggregate to Croatia, missed the 2002 event when Germany beat them 5-2, failed to make the 2010 World Cup when they fell 1-0 to Greece and also fell short of the 2014 tournament when France beat them 3-2. The 2014 failure was especially hard on the team and fans since Ukraine won the first leg at home 2-0 and blew the return match 3-0 in Paris.
This will be the third European Championship playoffs for Slovenia. They edged Ukraine in 1999, but were beaten 2-1 by Croatia in an attempt to reach Euro 2004. They fared well in their World Cup playoff series as they beat Romania 3-2 on aggregate to make the 2002 event and then squeaked past Russia on the away-goals rule to make the 2010 tournament after their series was deadlocked 2-2. Ukraine will be without Taras Stepanenko and Olexandr Kucher for the first leg against Slovenia as they’re both suspended for receiving three yellow cards during the group qualifying campaign.