Ukraine will look to their Wayne Rooney clone, Roman Zozulya

He might look familiar as England play their crucial World Cup qualifier in Kiev

Wayne Rooney's gashed head means he will miss England's visit to Ukraine, but on the pitch there will at least be one a thickset, balding forward who combines muscularity with technical ability and got sent off against Montenegro. Roman Zozulya has been one of the keys to Ukraine's resurgence this year and he remains in a streak of exceptional form. When he scored twice and was fouled for a penalty in Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk's 3-1 win over Shakhtar Donetsk a fortnight ago, the former Ukraine coach Josef Szabo repeated his assertion that, "We have our own Rooney now."

Although the physical resemblance may not be as clear as Ukrainians make out, there is a similarity of style. Zozulya is an inch taller at 5ft 10in, but both are forwards who are better in the air than their height would suggest. Both are ruggedly physical.

Both can play anywhere across the front line and are happy dropping back to win the ball in midfield. Zozulya is four years younger than Rooney but, more importantly, he will be in the Olimpiskyi on Tuesday night and he is in a fine run of form. The double against Shakhtar was part of a run of five goals in four games for the Kiev-born graduate of the Dynamo youth system.

Against England, Zozulya will presumably play behind the awkward and angular Marko Devic, the striker whose shot crossed the line before John Terry hooked it clear when England beat Ukraine at Euro 2012. He had just moved to Shakhtar then, but never really settled, starting just 12 league games. Since joining Metalist Kharkiv earlier this year, though, the Belgrade-born 29-year-old has produced the best football of his career, rattling in 13 goals in 18 games, including eight in eight this season. So impressive has been his form that Metalist have felt secure enough to loan the forward Jonathan Cristaldo to Bologna.

Devic is likely to be the lone front man, with Zozulya behind him, leading the press on which Ukraine's coach Mykhaylo Fomenko is so insistent. Also key to that are the two hard-working wingers in the 4-2-3-1, Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko. Konoplyanka has just signed up with a new agent, James Lippitt, and, perhaps not coincidentally, was heavily linked with Liverpool in the transfer window. He broke the deadlock when Ukraine beat Moldova in March but was especially impressive against Montenegro, when Ukraine overcame the dismissal of Zozulya with the score at 0-0 to win 4-0. That he is angling for a move to England is no secret. Yarmolenko perhaps hasn't quite reached the levels he hit before the Euros – and to an extent is suffering the general malaise at Dynamo – but his work-rate and willingness to drop back into midfield makes him a vital component of Fomenko's system.

Fomenko's reign so far has been an astonishing success. Ukraine drew their first game in qualifying – against England – at which Oleh Blokhin departed to take over at Dynamo Kiev. Andriy Bal took over as caretaker and took a single point from a game in Moldova and a home fixture against Montenegro. Fomenko, yet another former Valeriy Lobanovskyi player – and then a coach with him at Dynamo, took over with many assuming the campaign was as good as over, but a 3-1 win in Poland restored hope. Victory over San Marino was their fifth in a row and now there is a realistic expectation of taking a play-off spot and perhaps even pipping England to win the group.

In achieving that, of course, Tuesday's game is vital. "Would I settle for a draw with England?" Fomenko asked. "I'll answer that question on October 15." He was at pains, though, to make clear that what happened in Lviv on Friday, when Ukraine peppered the San Marino goal with set-plays and racked up nine goals, has very little bearing on what will happen in Kiev on Tuesday. "We should forget this game as soon as possible and think about England. It's good that no one has been injured. We are already living the game against England and that match [against San Marino] helped us prepare well. They beat Moldova with ease and that means something."

What it means is that qualifying automatically comes down to this game: win and Ukraine, with Poland at home and San Marino away still to play, are in charge of the group; lose, and England are all but home and dry. Draw and Ukraine are left hoping for an England wobble at home to Montenegro or Poland.

Why England should be wary in the Ukraine

Konoplyanka's corners

Of the nine goals Ukraine scored against San Marino on Friday, four came from corners from Yevheniy Konoplyanka, which is how the centre-back Yevhen Khacheridi came to be the only player to score twice.

Olimpiskyi atmosphere

There is belief now among Ukrainian fans that they will qualify for the World Cup for the second time and that should mean that the stadium is packed and rocking.

Devic's revenge

When Ukraine lost to England at the Euros, they were left with a dreadful sense of injustice. Marko Devic's should had clearly crossed the line before John Terry cleared it. That Devic had been offside but hadn't been flagged has been conveniently overlooked in the bid to set the record straight.

A sense of momentum

After Shevchenko, after Blokhin, this is a young Ukraine side, playing largely without pressure but, having won four in a row, with a tremendous sense that things are swinging their way.

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Caption competition
Caption competition
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Syria civil war: Meet the military commander who says his soldiers will not rest until every inch of their war torn country is free of Islamist 'terrorists'

‘We won’t stop until Syria is back to normal’

Near the front lines with Islamist-controlled towns where Assad’s troops were besieged just last month, Robert Fisk meets a commander confidently preparing his soldiers for battle
Fifa corruption: Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

Strip Qatar of the World Cup? Not likely

But if a real smoking gun is found, that might change things, says Tom Peck
Twenty two years later Jurassic Park series faces questions over accuracy of the fictional dinosaurs in it

Tyrannosaurus wrecked?

Twenty two years on, Jurassic Park faces questions over accuracy
The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation may undermine Hillary's chances

The inside story of how Bill Clinton built a $2bn global foundation...

... and how it may undermine Hillary's chances in 2016
Genes greatly influence when and how many babies a woman will have, study finds

Mother’s genes play key role in decision to start a family

Study's findings suggest that human fertility is still evolving
12 best olive oils

Extra-virgin, cold-press, early-harvest, ultra-premium: 12 best olive oils

Choosing an olive oil is a surprising minefield. Save yourself the hassle with our handy guide
Rafa Benitez Real Madrid unveiling: New manager full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

Benitez full of emotion at Bernabeu homecoming

There were tears in the former Liverpool manager’s eyes as he was unveiled as Real Madrid coach. But the Spaniard knows he must make tough decisions if he is to succeed
England can win the Ashes – and Elvis Presley will present the urn

England can win the Ashes – and Elvis will present the urn

In their last five Test, they have lost two and drawn two and defeated an India side last summer who thought that turning up was competing, says Stephen Brenkley
Sepp Blatter resignation: The beginning of Fifa's long road to reform?

Does Blatter's departure mean Fifa will automatically clean up its act?

Don't bet on it, says Tom Peck
Charles Kennedy: The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

The baby of the House who grew into a Lib Dem giant

Charles Kennedy was consistently a man of the centre-left, dedicated to social justice, but was also a champion of liberty and an opponent of the nanny-state, says Baroness Williams
Syria civil war: The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of this endless conflict

The harrowing testament of a five-year-old victim of Syria's endless civil war

Sahar Qanbar lost her mother and brother as civilians and government soldiers fought side by side after being surrounded by brutal Islamist fighters. Robert Fisk visited her
The future of songwriting: How streaming is changing everything we know about making music

The future of songwriting

How streaming is changing everything we know about making music
William Shemin and Henry Johnson: Jewish and black soldiers receive World War I Medal of Honor amid claims of discrimination

Recognition at long last

Jewish and black soldiers who fought in WWI finally receive medals after claims of discrimination
Beating obesity: The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters

Beating obesity

The new pacemaker which helps over-eaters
9 best women's festival waterproofs

Ready for rain: 9 best women's festival waterproofs

These are the macs to keep your denim dry and your hair frizz-free(ish)