Belfast Telegraph

Northern Ireland Euro 2016 group opponents Ukraine warm up with a home victory against Cyprus

By Stuart McKinley

Northern Ireland's Euro 2016 group opponents Ukraine have got their preparations for the finals under way in earnest with a home victory.

Shakhtar Donetsk midfielder Taras Stepanenko scored the only game as Ukraine beat Cyprus 1-0 in Odessa.

Manager Mykhaylo Fomenko named an unfamiliar line-up as he prepares for the finals in France, with some of his regulars also missing through injury.

Ukraine dominated the first half and they were rewarded five minutes from half time when Stepanenko finished from close range at the far post after Roman Zozulya's header had been saved by Cyprus keeper Constantinos Panayi.

Northern Ireland will face Ukraine in their second group game before meeting Germany in the final match.

The Germans play England in Berlin tomorrow night and Italy on Tuesday and midfielder Toni Kroos believes the friendlies are more beneficial to coach Joachim Low.

"The games represent a good opportunity for the manager to gain more of an insight and to try and few things out," he said.

"It's important that we are together for four days and that we can challenge ourselves against two very good sides."

Germany will be without captain Bastian Schweinsteiger, who has been sidelined for several weeks with a knee injury. No timescale has been put on the Manchester United man's return.

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