EURO 2016 Group C by DamirJ
Few days before the start of EURO 2016 in France, we will try to present overview of the national teams playing it, now making a breakdown of the group “C” where the national teams of Germany, Northern Ireland, Poland and Ukraine will be playing. On the first sight, it might look that the German side is sure to progress, while other three will fight for other promoting positions with pretty much equal chances.
Germany is one of the most successful national teams, not only in Europe but also looking globally. They totally have lifted three EURO trophies, being first looking at that, along with Spain. However, their last title was back in 1996, so there's no doubt that the thirst is huge for success in their locker room. Certainly, that's not the case with World Cup title, since the team remains current World champions having won over Argentina back in 2014 in the finals.
Germany qualified for EURO tournament finishing at the top of fourth group, with twenty-two points and a 7-1-2 record, finishing above rivals from Ireland and Scotland who stood without reaching the EURO, while second placed side was Poland, which won over Germans 2:0 almost right after the World Cup. In the most recent friendly game, the Germans have won over Hungary 2:0, restoring the balance in their locker room after suffering 3:1 defeat to Slovakia.
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)
Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Emre Can (Liverpool), Jonas Hector (Cologne), Benedikt Hoewedes (Schalke), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia), Antonio Ruediger (Roma)
Midfielders: Julian Draxler (VfL Wolfsburg), Sami Khedira (Juventus), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray), Andre Schuerrle (Wolfsburg), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United), Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund)
Forwards: Mario Gomez (Besiktas), Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich), Leroy Sane (Schalke).
Germans have more than quality roster this time, with the most players competing in the same league, Bundesliga, something that will significantly contribute to the homogeneity of the team. It's a sure thing that players like Philipp Lahm, Per Mertesacker and Miroslav Klose will be missed, however there is plenty of quality to replace them. Mario Gomez is quite a question mark this time, which should leave more space to excellent Muller in attack.
Manuel Neuer is sure at the goal, one of those goalkeepers that is constantly among the top ones in the World. However, their defensive lineup isn't inspiring with confidence completely, even though central defensive duo of Boateng and Hummels have performances on the highest level. Young Jonas Hector from Koln will be on the left side of the defense, while Emre Can will keep the right full back position, coming from an excellent season with Liverpool.
Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos look sure in the midfield, with the second one bringing even more reliable solutions. Most likely Muller and Ozil will be having quite offensive tasks, so Drazler seems sure on the side, with probably trying Mario Gomez at the top of attack, even though his form isn't completely clear at the moment. Schweinsteiger comes from many injuries this season, so we shouldn't expect much from him.
Manager Joachim Low:
Joachim Low is national team head coach since distant 2006, starting firstly as a assistant manager to their previous head coach Jurgen Klinsmann. The path of the team with him is quite remarkable, as he led youthful roster to a fourth position at the World Cup 2010, but then won the competition 2014 in Brazil, making his biggest success as a coach.
No special knowledge is needed to recognize Germans as one of the best sides at this EURO, especially since the World Cup 2014. Since then there have been some major changes in the side, since players like Klose and Lahm retired from the national team.
Without any doubt, they are the first favorites to win the group stage as I believe they'll find a way against the Polish side that won over them in qualifiers. Odds of around 1.90 for the Germans to reach the semi-finals might be tempting, while as for specific bet, Thomas Muller to be the first goalscorer of German side with odds of 2.25 seems worthy as well, since he should be their leading role in attack.
Northern Ireland was more than modest side for nearly thirty years, with the last participation at the biggest event being World Cup competition back in 1986. Thanks to excellent progress in the qualifiers for EURO 2016, the nation will have the honor to participate for the first time in the final phase of European championship.
The team surprised everyone to finish at the first position of their qualifying group with twenty one point earned and only one defeat, having 6-3-1 record. Things started perfectly for them, as they had three consecutive victory, including an important three pointer away from home against Greece. They relied pretty much on attack, using Kyle Lafferty as their biggest weapon, as the players scored seven goals out of seventeen goals that national team has scored during these ten games.
Goalkeepers: Roy Carroll (Notts County), Michael McGovern (Hamilton), Alan McManus (St. Johnstone)
Defenders: Craig Cathcart (Watford), Jonny Evans (West Brom), Gareth McAuley (West Brom), Luke McCullough (Doncaster), Conor McLaughlin (Fleetwood), Aaron Hughes (Melbourne City), Lee Hodson (MK Dons), Chris Baird (Derby County), Paddy McNair (Manchester United)
Midfielders: Steven Davis (Southampton), Oliver Norwood (Reading), Corry Evans (Blackburn), Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest), Stuart Dallas (Leeds), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Shane Ferguson (Millwall)
Forwards: Will Grigg (Wigan), Kyle Lafferty (Birmingham), Conor Washington (QPR), Josh Magennis (Kilmarnock).
Strong point of their team is the team spirit, since there's excellent cooperation between the players, as it became their trademark and the team is expected to use it as their strongest point, trying to overcome lack of quality they surely have in comparison to some of opponents.
Roy Carroll is sure between the posts, even though he is entering thirty-eight year of his life. Jonny Evans will be important part in the defense, since he remains one of the most experienced players. Gareth McAuley and Craig Cathcart should be two other central defenders, since the national team coach opted for playing with three central stoppers, prioritizing defensive behavior for tactics.
Captain Steven Davis will lead their midfield and will surely be organizing their game play, having Oliver Norwood at one of his sides, as the players comes from excellent season with Reading. Stuart Dallas, Conor McLaughlin and Paddy McNair should also be employed in the midfield. Formation used should be 3-5-2, with probably Ward and Lafferty used at the top of attack.
With exception of couple of players, team of Northern Ireland is quite poor regarding quality and experience. Majority of players is playing in English lower leagues, without significant difference between the basic lineup and their substitute solutions. Moreover, midfielder Chris Brunt from WBA will be a huge miss for them due knee injury, as the team losses some of solution in midfield.
Manager Michael O'Neill:
Michael O'Neill is at the helm of Northern Ireland since 2011 and his work has shown to be quite positive, since the team reached the final stage of a big even for the first time in thirty years, moreover, reaching the EURO final phase for the first time. He previously had some success with Shamrock Rovers, but never actually reached higher teams, at least not for now.
Northern Ireland will go here with huge fighting spirit aiming for a positive performance here. A point taken, or even scored couple of goals will probably leave the residents of their country happy. The side will probably give their everything, but will hardly be able to match against their opponents. Under 2.5 points earned in the group with odds around 1.60 look as a reasonable bet, while it won't be a surprise if we see them conceding the most goals in the group stage.
This will be third participation for Polish national team at the final stage of European championship and more concretely, third straight participation which perfectly reflects the rise of their national team in last decade. In fact, they were even co-hosts of EURO 2012 together with Ukraine, but disappointed being excluded already in the group stage.
The team finished second in the fourth qualifying group with twenty-one point, having 6-3-1 record and 33:10 goal difference, just a point behind mighty Germany. The team counted just one defeat, away to Germany 3:1, but the Polish side got their revenge with a 2:0 home victory over current World champions. Worth saying is that the team scored the most goals in the qualifying stage, led by their biggest star Robert Lewandowski who scored thirteen goals in the process. They had six friendly since then, having 4-1-1 record, although the team didn't impress in last two, suffering defeat to Netherlands and staying to a goalless draw against Lithuania.
Goalkeepers: Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea), Wojciech Szczesny (Roma), Artur Boruc (Bournemouth)
Defenders: Thiago Cionek (Palermo), Kamil Glik (Torino), Artur Jedrzejczyk (Legia), Michal Pazdan (Legia), Lukasz Piszczek (Dortmund), Bartosz Salamon (Cagliari), Jakub Wawrzyniak (Lechia Gdansk)
Midfielders: Jakub Blaszczykowski (Fiorentina), Kamil Grosicki (Rennes), Tomasz Jodlowiec (Legia), Bartosz Kapustka (Cracovia), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Sevilla), Karol Linetty (Lech Poznan), Krzysztof Maczynski (Wisla), Slawomir Peszko (Lechia Gdansk), Filip Starzynski (Zaglebie Lubin), Piotr Zielinski (Empoli)
Forwards: Arkadiusz Milik (Ajax), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Mariusz Stepinski (Ruch Chorzow).
Without any doubt, their powerful weapon will be attack, since the team has one of the most quality player in Europe in Robert Lewandowski. It's no wonder that the team scored thirty-three goals in ten matches, while they remain with several problems in the defensive lineup and the team will surely have to struggle in defense against stronger opponents.
Lukasz Fabianski will probably have advantage in comparison to Wojciech Szczesny, even though that remains unsure. Defensive lineup will make constant headache for coach Nawalka, since the team lacks experience and quality, with exception to reliable Lukas Piszczek from Dortmund. The team concedes goals easily mostly due the fact that they didn't find proper central defensive duo. According to all indications, they will try with Glik and Pazdan, from Torino and Legia.
Midfield is clearly much better part of the team than defensive lineup, as the team has players like Blaszczykowski, but also Grosicki, Krychowiak and Zielinski - players that could play in many national teams. This is almost ideal background for the offensive part of the team which will be led by Lewandowski and Milik.
Manager Adam Nawalka:
Adam Nawalka is a head coach of the national team since 2013, having recorded only four defeats in total of twenty-five matches. Regarding his background as a coach, he worked as a coach for several Polish sides, without making huge success.
Everyone in their camp expect that the side will get through to the group stage for the first time at EURO. They surely have decent chances, but given the fact that Germany seems as firm favorites, Poland to end up second seems like the most realistic scenario. In order for that to happen, they will need to mask their vulnerability at the back. Over 4.5 goals scored with odds of around 1.90 might be worth taking, since the team has no other option but to be as offensive as possible.
First participation as an independent state for Ukraine was back in 2012 when the nation was co-host with Poland. So actually, this is their first "earned" qualification for the final event, after they had no luck at previous EURO where they were drawn together with France, England and Sweden.
The team didn't impress a lot during the qualifying stage, but still were more than competitive and finished at the third position, above inferior nations like Belarus, Luxembourg and FYR Macedonia. They were playing additional play-off matches against Slovenia, winning the first game with a 2:0 result in Kiev, holding to a 1:1 draw on the road and making historic success for their country. As for friendly matches, they recorded four victories out of four matches, showing that they are on the right track.
Goalkeepers: Andriy Pyatov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Denys Boyko (Besiktas), Mykyta Shevchenko (Zorya)
Defenders: Artem Fedetskiy (Dnipro), Mykyta Kamenyuka (Zorya), Vyacheslav Shevchuk (Shakhtar Donetsk), Oleksandr Kucher (Shakhtar Donetsk), Yaroslav Rakytskyi (Shakhtar Donetsk), Yevhen Khacheridi (Dynamo Kiev)
Midfielders: Anatoliy Tymoschuk (Kairat Almaty), Oleksandr Karavaev (Zorya), Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kiev), Denys Garmash (Dynamo Kiev), Serhiy Sydorchuk (Dynamo Kiev), Serhiy Rybalka (Dynamo Kiev), Taras Stepanenko (Shakhtar Donetsk), viktor Kovalenko (Shakhtar Donetsk), Ruslan Rotan (Dnipro), Yevhen Konoplyanka (Sevilla)
Forwards: Pylyp Budkovskyi (Zorya), Roman Zozulya (Dnipro), Yevhen Seleznyov (Shakhtar Donetsk).
War scenes in their country couldn't leave unaffected the national team, whose preparations were accompanied with quite a few problems. As if this wasn't enough, there were rumors that the relations are disturbed inside the locker room, with some of the players being openly against each other. Additionally, some of the players were under pressure because of the fact that they were playing in the Russian Premier League.
Goalkeeper Andriy Pyatov is sure to be between the posts, even though he himself isn't prone to error. As for the defensive lineup, they will probably be playing in line with Fedetskiy-Khacheridi-Rakytskyi-Shevchuk and that line seems quite stable. Names like Konoplyanka and Yarmolenko are giving some boost in the midfield, with the first one being great threat to opponents' defensive lineups. One of the bad things is that the team doesn't have distinguished number nine and might have problems scoring goals in case they don't start in a proper way.
Manager Mykhaylo Fomenko:
Sophisticated technician is head coach of national team since 2012, without achieving great success for now. In 2014, Ukraine reached play-off stage for qualification to World Cup, but were excluded by France with an aggregate score 5:0.
Having secured only second participation in the finals of EURO, Ukraine will be hoping to make additional step this time and reach the knock-out stage. Many will depend on their second match against Northern Ireland, as a victory there remains big target for them. However, the side is coming with various problems here and it won't be much of a surprise if we see them ending with three points or less which might be found under decent odds.