Ukraine’s Yarmolenko extra-motivated for England match, warns teammate

Andriy Yarmolenko will be inspired to perform against England in Ukraine’s Euro 2020 quarter-final on Saturday because the West Ham winger wants to prove he is good enough for the Premier League, according to his international teammate Ruslan Malinovskyi.

Ukraine’s captain has been a standout player in the surprise run of Andriy Shevchenko’s side to the last eight. Yet the 31-year-old’s domestic season was affected by contracting Covid-19 in November, which ruled him out for three weeks, and torn knee ligaments in early February. This and further fitness problems put Yarmolenko out of action until mid‑April, after which he featured only once for West Ham. He made just 15 league appearances, failed to score and made one assist.

Malinovskyi, who is expected to face England in Rome, believes Yarmolenko will draw on this for motivation. “Yarmolenko didn’t play much [last season],” the midfielder said.

“He had some injuries and was a little bit unlucky with this because we all know he has a lot of quality and a good personality. He is really motivated and I think that last month [of the season] when he didn’t play [much] for his club he thought a lot about this and so he prepared to be ready for the Euros.

“He showed this in the last games. He’s a real captain, he takes the team with him, he will be fit and motivated to play against England because for him it’s a little bit special: he plays in England and so against the national team it will [be] a chance for him to show that he deserves to play in the Premier League and that he’s a good player.”

Covid restrictions mean fans cannot travel from outside Italy to the game but Malinovskyi expects Ukraine to have vocal support at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome.

“A lot of [Ukrainian] people live in Italy and I am sure a lot of people will come to support us,” he said. “For Ukraine, football has been really special during this competition because we have not so good things in our country, like the war.” The conflict with Russia has been ongoing in effect since 2014.