The second international tournament out of 3 this summer will begin in France, which is EURO 2016. This tournament generally is considered one of the best tournaments around the world, on par with the World Cup in the eyes of many, as it has most of the top teams in the world. UEFA wanted to have more countries develop their football, so they have extended this years competition to 24 teams as compared to 16 historically, which should make for some great viewing.
Germany come into this tournament as one of the favourites especially after winning the World Cup back in 2014. The team since then has undergone some changes with Philip Lahm, Per Metersacker and Miroslav Klose all retiring since then. Germany since then have relied a lot on Thomas Muller to find the back of the net, netting 9 goals in qualifying, while he has been supported by Gotze and Schurrle who netted 3 goals each. Defensively is where Germany has been struggling, conceding 7 goals in their 4 friendlies played so far. Manuel Neuer will need to be at his best if the team along with centre backs Rudiger and Boateng. The midfield is where Germany boast the most strength from holding and creating with Khedira and Kross to scoring with Ozil, Gotze, Muller and Draxler. Germany should come out on top of this group, but they will need to ensure they defend well.
Ukraine went through qualifying through the playoffs over Slovenia in order to get into the place. They have managed to develop good form winning 4 straight friendlies against Cyprus, Wales, Romania and Albania which will give the team a lot of confidence getting into the tournament. Ukraine over-rely on Yarmolenko, Konoplyanka and Seleznyov to score their goals, and in particular Yarmolenko who has to jump from the wings to score goals. Ukraine will have to take on some top defences in Poland and Germany who will be in their tournament best to not let Ukraine score and just keep it tight at the back. Captain Tymoshchuk touching 37 along with Rotan and Shevchuk are the senior players in the squad who manager Fomenko will rely on to get the team through. The team boasts Poland who will like qualify ahead of them, but it should be a mouth watering battle against them.
Poland have played well in the qualifying and even beat World Champions Germany, but finished 1 point behind them in the qualifying. Their recent results have been good winning 4 out of their last 5 friendlies, with only a late loss against Netherlands doing them in. Poland have one of the world top strikers at their disposal in Robert Lewandowski and he is will supported by Milik who will be there up front with him in the 4-4-2 formation that Poland will likely play. Poland will have to ensure that the keep it tight at the back with Scescny playing in goal along Pisczek, Pazdan, Gilik and Jedrzejczyk especially in the games against Northern Ireland and Ukraine. I expect Poland to qualify out of this group.
The Northern Irish are happy to just get to a major tournament final after 1986 World Cup. They qualified by winning their qualifying group, that was honestly among the easiest to go through with Romania, Hungary, Finland, Faroe Islands and Greece. They had a lot of great attacking threat from Kyle Lafferty who is building his experience in Birmingham City and netted 7 goals in their campaign. They have been focussed and discipline on defence, and they haven’t lost a game since 26th March. They haven’t faced and tough opposition to test them, and that might be their un-doing against 3 other quality sides in their group. I don’t expect them to upset either Germany or Poland, which will see them not qualifying out of this group.
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