Uh-oh! Ex-Town star Baltacha thinks England v Ukraine will go to penalties
- Credit: PA
It's not a prediction that England fans will want to hear, but former Ipswich Town star Sergei Baltacha believes today's Euro 2020 quarter-final clash between Ukraine and the Three Lions will go to penalties.
Baltacha, who was born in the Ukraine and made history as the first Soviet to play in English football when he signed for Town in 1988, admits he'll be torn between his home country and his adopted country when they meet in Rome later (8pm).
Gareth Southgate's men saw off old rivals Germany to reach the last eight, while Ukraine have made history with their progress to the quarters, sealed by a dramatic injury-time winner against Sweden.
And while his country have exceeded expectations, Baltacha, who's now a coach in the Charlton Athletic Academy, said he always believed they could make a splash in the tournament.
"It's not a surprise for me," he said. "We've always had good players, and I'm glad the boys beat Sweden and have got to this stage."
Of the game itself, Baltacha picked out West Ham's Andriy Yarmolenko as the Ukraine player England should fear, while highlighting Raheem Sterling and Calvin Phillips as England's stand-out stars.
He added: "I like English football, and I like the England team now - it's one of the best English sides for maybe the last ten or 15 years.
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They're doing really well and have lots of good players, and will be playing against my country's team. It's really interesting.
"This is a big game for both sides, and I think it will be a very difficult game.
"It's hard not to want to support both sides. At this level, be it World Cup or Euros, it's about who performs. Both sides have 11 players, but they're under pressure, they'll be nervous and they need to perform.
"It's really about who will perform better."
Pushed for a prediction, Baltacha uttered the one word England fans least want to hear - their old nemesis, penalties.
"It's going to be difficult, but a very interesting game," he stressed.
"I think it will be 1-1 after extra-time and Ukraine will win on penalties.
"I'm very confident on penalties - Ukraine's keeper is a very good penalty stopper and I'm sure the boys are practicing a lot and will be confident."
The winners of tonight's game will face the winner of the Czech Republic v Denmark game (5pm ko) in the last four.