Euro 2016 Preview - Group C: Germany, Northern Ireland, Poland, Ukraine
A look at the four teams from Group C that will be vying for the ultimate glory during Euro 2016.
We take a close look at Group C in this installment of Euro 2016 Preview series. Group C features World Cup winners Germany who will be targeting the coveted World Cup and Euro double, which very few teams have been able to achieve.
Northern Ireland make their debut in the competition, and will look to enjoy the experience of playing in a major tournament after a long while. Expect a German goal fest when they meet Northern Ireland though. Ukraine and Poland are two potentially tricky opponents for Germany, who will both relish the challenge of facing the World Cup Winners.
Germany, who are three-time winners of the competition, twice as West Germany in 1972 and 1980 and once as Germany in 1996, should have enough quality to see off all challengers in the group. Poland and Ukraine will fight it out for 2nd spot, but Ukraine being our pick.
There aren’t many major competitions that Germany feature in, where they are not among the top contenders for the Trophy, and Euro 2016 is no different. The German squad has superstars in every position, and it’s hard to see anyone stopping their juggernaut.
Poland have the attacking prowess of Bayern Munich’s star man Robert Lewandowski to call upon, who is widely considered one of the best, if not the best Striker in the world.
Ukraine boast of no superstars but they are a very well organised unit, who are tough to break down, and possess excellent quality in the middle of their defence and midfield.
Northern Ireland are perhaps the weakest team to have qualified for Euro 2016, but they must not be underestimated. They topped a tough qualification group to get here and will look to make the most of the complacency in their rivals.
Here is a more in-depth look at the teams.
It must be hard for other managers to look at Joachim Low‘s German squad without envy. Germany have perhaps the most complete squad in the competition and there are no weaknesses to point out in any position.
Manuel Neuer is a top custodian in goal, who is very ably protected by the sturdy partnership of Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng, and Bayern Munich’s new recruit Mats Hummels, in defence. Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos form a very formidable pair in midfield, from where they control the flow of the game.
Mesut Ozil is the creator in chief, who has rediscovered his form this season and is ably supported by Mario Gotze. Thomas Muller, the Golden Boot winner of the 2010 World Cup will be is the main goal scoring threat, but by no means the only one.
It's very tough to find a weakness in the squad and no one should be surprised to see Germany lift the trophy.
Northern Ireland surprised many with their fine showing in the qualification rounds, and qualification is a reward in itself for them. Northern Ireland are not expected to make any waves in the tournament, at least not in a positive way. The only headlines they are going to get are likely to be about their comprehensive defeat, especially against Germany.
While this may seem very harsh, but the reality is that Northern Ireland just don’t have the players to really achieve much in the tournament. Had they gotten the luck of the draw and featured in a relatively easier group, then maybe they would have had a chance. However featuring in the same group as Germany, Ukraine and Poland, has hurt whatever little chance they would otherwise have had.
That their first choice right back Conor McLaughlin, plays for Fleetwood Town in the 3rd tier of English Football, should give a very fair indication of just desperately short of quality their squad is. West Brom duo Gareth McAuley and Johnny Evans, who form the core of their defense are the only players with any real Premier League experience.
Norwich’s Kyle Lafferty is a willing worker on the wings, but even he lacks the quality to trouble the defences he will be up against in this group.
Additionally, it’s tough to see who will finish off the few chances that Lafferty is likely to create. Scoring from set pieces is the most likely route to goal for Northern Ireland.
Most of the squad is made up of players from the 2nd and 3rd tier of English Football, and with such a squad if Northern Ireland can win even a point in this tough group, it would be nothing short of a miracle. Northern Ireland will quickly tell you though, that their critics said similar things about chances of them qualifying for Euro 2016, and yet here they are !
That Poland will rely heavily on their Talismanic striker Robert Lewandowski is clear to everyone, however, it would be wrong to consider Poland a one man team.
In Fabianski and Szczesny they have two young, yet experienced keepers to choose from, and in Kamil Glik they have a very solid defensive mainstay. Dortmund right-back Lukasz Piszczek, is the star in defence, who loves to get forward, should provide a lot, both defensively, as well as in attack down the right wing.
Grzegorz Krychowiak is the pivot in midfield and he has had a fine club season that saw him lift the Europa League crown. Poland also have a very experienced and reliable winger in Dortmund’s Jakub Blaszczykowski, who finished the season on loan at Fiorentina.
Poland will be without injured wingers Pawel Wszolek and Maciej Rybus who were regulars during their qualifying campaign and this could stifle their creativity.
While many would back Poland to finish 2nd in the group, and with good reason, but its seems that Ukraine will pip Poland to 2nd, with Poland having to settle for a 3rd spot in the group.
Ukraine are very much a ‘defense-first and hit opponents on the counter attack’ team.
Ukraine boast of a very formidable back four who will be tough to break down. In the 12 games they played during qualification, Ukraine let in just 5 goals. Ukraine’s back four is as settled as any in the competition.
The pairing of Dynamo Kiev’s Yevhen Khacheridi and Shakhtar’s Yaroslav Rakitskyi in the middle of defence is a very formidable one, and both are young strong defenders, solid in the air as well as with one on one defending.
Artem Fedetskyi, Dnipro’s right wing back can contain wingers and also contribute going forward, as can the left wing back Vyacheslav Shevchuk.
In Tymoshchuk, Rotan and Stepanenko, Ukraine have a trio of tough tackling midfielders who provide excellent cover for their defence, and opposing teams will find it hard to play through them.
In Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko, Ukraine have two very creative wingers/forwards, who with their speed and direct running can trouble the best of defences on their day. Ukraine have enough to finish 2nd in the group.
CONCLUSION – Germany are the clear favorites to win the group, but both Poland and Ukraine have the quality to give Germany a stern test. The quality that Germany possess should see them through as group winners.
Ukraine should pip Poland to second, and the good news for both teams is that with Northern Ireland as the 4th team, whoever finishes 3rd should have atleast 3 points and reasonable goal difference, and thus is likely to be among the top four 3rd placed teams.
Therefore its very likely that Germany, Ukraine and Poland all qualify to the knockout rounds.