UEFA Euro 2016 preview: Group C

World champions Germany will be considered comfortable favourites to progress from Group C, with their nearest rival in the group Ukraine being a full 17 places below them in the FIFA world rankings.

We take a closer look at the four teams in the group and their chances of success…

Group overview:

Poland will be hoping they can spring an upset like they did against Germany in qualifying for the tournament, but die Mannschaft are unlikely to be caught by surprise a second time.

Northern Ireland will be seen as the weakest team in the group, but they won’t mind that moniker too much as plucky performances and being underestimated by their opposition were two major factors in them qualifying for the Euros in the first place.

Germany:

Despite being favourites to top Group C, Germany progression’s in the competition is far from a foregone conclusion. Poland beat them in qualifying, while both Ukraine and Northern Ireland have shown their potential to beat teams that don’t show them enough respect.

However, it has become almost a cliche that Germany will make it to at least the semi-final of any major tournament they appear in, no matter the state of their squad and the opposition they face and they will be incredibly disappointed if they do not progress to the next stage of the competition.

GettyImages-3323067

Key players:

The German squad is packed full of world-class talent, but there are one or two players that will be more under the spotlight than others.

Miroslav Klose’s retirement from international football has left many feeling the squad is without a genuine No. 9 and Thomas Muller will be under immense pressure to supply goals in his absence. The 26-year-old has already proven his ability to score important goals in big tournaments for Germany and has just concluded his most prolific scoring season for Bayern Munich, so will be going into the competition full of confidence.

The Germans will have to do without influential Borussia Dortmund attacker Marco Reus, however, who misses out through injury.

Poor Reus also missed Germany’s World Cup win in Brazil in 2014 after suffering an ankle injury in his team’s final warm up match against Armenia.

Ukraine:

This is the first time Ukraine have managed to qualify to compete in the European Championship finals, their participation four years ago was as co-hosts of the tournament, and they will feel like they have a point to prove.

They showed exactly what they were capable of in the qualifying campaign by running Spain close twice and their rivals in Group C would do well not to underestimate them as they look to put the disappointment of the 2012 tournament on home soil behind them.

GettyImages-3323067

Key players:

Ukraine remain without a striker that will strike fear into their opponents like Andriy Shevchenko did, but the nation has plenty of attacking options in his absence. Their decision to omit all players based in the Russian league has also limited their options somewhat.

As a result, they are likely to focus much of their attacking endeavour down the wings with Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko providing an attacking threat that no defence in the competition will be looking forward to playing against.

Poland:

As co-hosts with Ukraine for the last Euros, Poland will be hugely disappointed they failed to make it beyond the group stage of the competition four years ago and will want to set the record straight this time around.

They were hugely impressive during the qualifying campaign, finishing just one point behind Germany in second place after beating them 2-0 in Warsaw and will be looking to repeat that feat in France.

GettyImages-3323067

Key players:

There is no doubt about who Poland’s key man is. Robert Lewandowski scored 42 goals in 46 games in all competitions for Bayern Munich this season, including five in nine minutes against Wolfsburg.

He has the ability to score goals from anywhere on the pitch from wonder strikes to being in the right position to score poacher’s goals and Poland’s opponents will find themselves in a world of trouble if they fail to adequately contain him, which is easier said than done.

Northern Ireland:

Although not considered favourites in qualifying, Northern Ireland looking unstoppable on their way to finishing top of their group that also included Romania, Hungary and Greece, a fact their rivals for the finals in France would do well to heed as they are once again thought of as underdogs.

They have never qualified for a European Championship before, with their last major tournament appearance coming in the 1986 World Cup in Mexico, and will be determined to prove their inclusion this time around was no fluke.

GettyImages-3323067

Key players:

Northern Ireland qualified for Euro 2016 through a combination of hard work and a strong team ethic in which no one player was seem as the superstar of the team.

Kyle Lafferty scored seven goals for Northern Ireland during their qualifying campaign and is more than likely to be entrusted to lead the line once again in France, but it is a risk as he will be suffering from a lack of match fitness after making just three substitute appearances for Norwich all season.

Comments