Niall McGinn has warned that Ukraine’s players will be playing for their places at Euro 2020 when they take on Northern Ireland in a friendly on Thursday night.
Ian Baraclough’s side are heading to Dnipro looking to build on Sunday’s 3-0 victory over Malta, but will face much tougher opposition in Andriy Shevchenko’s side.
Shevchenko was assistant to Mykhaylo Fomenko when the sides last met at Euro 2016 – a 2-0 win for Northern Ireland in which McGinn was a second-half substitute.
“It’s going to be tough,” said McGinn, who earlier this week signed a new one-year deal with Aberdeen. “We know from playing them in the Euros how good they are tactically.
“Obviously they’ve got some very good players and it’s an important game for them – players are fighting for positions going into a tournament. They’ll want to put on a show.
“It’s the old cliche – you always want to put in a good performance to get a send off into the Euros. There’s not going to be any fans but the players will be wanting to stake a place for themselves and we know it’s going to be a very, very tough game.
“But we’ll take confidence from the other day and keep moving forward. To get that win makes us hungry for more.”
Baraclough’s first victory inside 90 minutes came with relative ease on Sunday after Jordan Jones took advantage of a defensive mistake from Ferdinando Apap to put them ahead with just two minutes gone.
Though Malta grew into the game, Northern Ireland killed them off with quick-fire goals from Gavin Whyte and Ali McCann in the second half, and McGinn said that was reward for Baraclough’s tactics.
“We played well in spells, especially the first 10-15 minutes of the first half,” he said.
“We know now in international football there are no easy games, all nations are tactically good on the ball and it’s like anyone – if you give them time and space they can cause you problems.
“The manager, Austin (MacPhee), Harps (Steve Harper), they want us to press high and you could see that in the first goal.
“We pressed high and the guy sort of chips the ball up and Jordan had a good finish.
“You’ve seen that most of the game and as the game went on it became a bit easier as we went two and three-nil up.
“All in all we were delighted to get the win and we move on to Thursday.”