UEFA Euro 2016 Preview – Group C

Group C

Teams (world ranking in brackets): Germany (4), Ukraine (19), Poland (27), Northern Ireland (25).
Fixtures:
Poland vs Northern Ireland, Allianz Riviera, Nice
Germany vs Ukraine, Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille
Ukraine vs Northern Ireland, Parc Olympique Lyonnais, Lyon
Germany vs Poland, Stade de France, Saint-Denis
Northern Ireland vs Germany, Parc des Princes, Paris
Ukraine vs Poland, Stade Velodrome, Marseille

Germany

Head Coach: Joachim Low
Captain: Bastian Schweinsteiger
Previous Appearances: 11 (1972, 1976, 1980, 1984, 1988, 1992, 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008, 2012)
Best Finish: Champions (1972, 1980, 1996)
Qualified: 1st Group D
UEFA Euro 2012: Semi-finals

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munchen), 12. Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen), 22. Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona).
Defenders:
2. Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia), 3. Jonas Hector (Koln), 4. Benedikt Howedes (Schalke), 5. Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), 16. Antonio Rudiger (Roma), 17. Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munchen), 21. Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munchen).
Midfielders:
6. Sami Khedira (Juventus), 7. Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United), 8. Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), 9. Andre Schurrle (Wolfsburg), 11. Julian Draxler (Wolfsburg), 14. Emre Can (Liverpool), 15. Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund), 18. Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), 19. Mario Gotze (Bayern Munchen), 20. Leroy Sane (Schalke).
Forwards:
10. Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray), 13. Thomas Muller (Bayern Munchen), 23. Mario Gomez (Besiktas).

Form Guide

Germany started their qualifying campaign badly, with a 2-0 loss to Poland and a 1-1 home draw with the Irish. They managed to recover, winning their next five games, and while a 1-0 loss to the Irish in Dublin was a setback they qualified in first place with a 2-1 win over Georgia in Leipzig. They are not in the best of form but they should not be underestimated.

Strengths

Manuel Neuer is, without question, the best goalkeeper in the world, and he will be very difficult to get past. The defence is strong, and with Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng at the helm the Germans should not concede too many goals. In the midfield Bastian Schweinsteiger, Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil and Toni Kroos are all quality players, and with proven scorers up front in Thomas Muller, Mario Gomez and Lukas Podolski goals will not be a problem. Andre Schurrle, Julian Draxler and Mario Gotze will be huge threats off the bench, making the Germans very hard to beat.

Weaknesses

Germany’s qualifying campaign was a huge let-down after their triumph at the World Cup, and there are definitely some issues. The retirement of Philipp Lahm has left a large hole on the right side of defence, and while there are options at left back Jonas Hector and Shkodran Mustafi are generally inexperienced. Leroy Sane, Joshua Kimmich, Julian Weigl and Emre Can have all been drafted into the squad, yet most of those players are not regulars at club level and could well struggle if needed at the final tournament.

Star Player: Manuel Neuer

Neuer is the best goalkeeper in the world, and his work for Bayern Munich and Germany over the years has been extraordinary. He has won the Champions League and the World Cup, and the Euros remain the only major tournament he has not won in an incredibly successful career. He will be an almost impenetrable force in the German goal, and should have an excellent tournament.

Key Player: Thomas Muller

Muller has an incredible record at international level, and he is especially prolific on the big stage. He has scored 10 World Cup goals in two tournaments, and he is Germany’s number one scoring option. Gomez and Podolski have the potential to find the net, but if the Germans are to get anywhere Muller will need to find his form.

Verdict

The Germans are a strong side, and they will be difficult to beat. They have been in poor form going in, but they have plenty of experience at this level and this should kick in to gear in France. They are reigning world champions, and they will be expecting a victory at the finals. Germany are an excellent side, and should not be underestimated.

Ukraine

Head Coach: Mykhaylo Formenko
Captain: Anatoliy Tymoshchuk
Previous Appearances: 1 (2012)
Best Finish: Group Stage (2012)
Qualified: 3rd Group C (defeated Slovenia in play-offs)
UEFA Euro 2012: Group Stage

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. Denis Boyko (Besiktas), 12. Andriy Pyatov (Shakhtar Donetsk), 23. Mykyta Shevchenko (Zorya Luhansk).
Defenders:
2. Bohdan Butko (Amkar Perm), 3. Yevhen Khacheridi (Dynamo Kyiv), 5. Oleksandr Kucher (Shakhtar Donetsk), 13. Vyacheslav Shevchuk (Shakhtar Donetsk), 17. Artem Fedetskiy (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), 20. Yaroslav Rakitskiy (Shakhtar Donetsk).
Midfielders:
4. Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Kairat Almaty), 6. Taras Stepanenko (Shakhtar Donetsk), 9. Viktor Kovalenko (Shakhtar Donetsk), 10. Yevhen Konoplyanka (Sevilla), 14. Ruslan Rotan (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), 16. Serhiy Sydorchuk (Dynamo Kyiv), 18. Serhiy Rybalka (Dynamo Kyiv), 19. Denys Garmash (Dynamo Kyiv), 21. Oleksandr Zinchenko (Ufa), 22. Oleksandr Karavayev (Zorya Luhansk).
Forwards:
7. Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kyiv), 8. Roman Zozulya (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), 11. Yevhen Seleznyov (Shakhtar Donetsk), 15. Pylyp Budkivskiy (Zorya Luhansk).

Form Guide

The Ukrainians started their qualifying campaign shakily, losing to Slovakia and requiring two late goals to put away Belarus. Their defence was consistently strong, but while the attack did not perform they recovered from poor performances against Slovakia and Spain to finish third and make the play-offs. They faced Slovenia, and a 2-0 win in Lviv was enough to seal their progress.

Strengths

Ukraine only let in four goals during qualifying, and the defence of Vyacheslav Shevchuk, Yaroslav Rakitskiy, Yevhen Khacheridi, Oleksandr Kucher and Artem Fedetskyi will be hard to penetrate at the final tournament. Andriy Pyatov has plenty of experience in goal, and Anatoliy Tymoshchuk has over 140 caps for Ukraine in the centre of midfield. Yevhen Konoplyanka is a quality player in midfield, and Andriy Yarmolenko is a star who scored plenty of goals in qualifying and can do the same at the final tournament.

Weaknesses

Ukraine’s defence was very strong throughout the qualification campaign, but their attack failed to fire. Ukraine scored only 14 goals in their qualifying group, and while Yarmolenko was able to perform they are going to need more scoring options at the final tournament. Ukraine faced some serious issues when playing the top sides in the group, and they did not score a goal in four games against Spain and Slovakia, losing three of those matches. This lack of potency up front could prove costly for Ukraine at the finals.

Star Player: Andriy Yarmolenko

Yarmolenko was touted as the next big thing in Ukrainian football from a young age, and at 26 he is already a star. He has 57 international caps and has won the Ukrainian footballer of the year three times running, and this tournament is a massive opportunity for him to announce himself on the world stage. He is a star, and he will be exciting to watch.

Key Player: Roman Zozulya

The Ukrainian attack did not fire in qualifying, and while Zozulya has not been prolific in his previous international appearances he will still start at the Euros and will be relied upon for goals. He has been around for a long time now, and if he is able to perform at the final tournament then Ukraine’s job will be much easier.

Verdict

The attack of Yevhen Seleznyov and Zozulya is not particularly strong, but Yarmolenko has the ability to chip in regularly from the left wing. The side has plenty of experience at the highest level, and with a very frugal defence the Ukrainians have the potential to make a splash at the final tournament. If they can handle the pressure they will be tough to beat.

Poland

Head Coach: Adam Nawalka
Captain: Robert Lewandowski
Previous Appearances: 2 (2008, 2012)
Best Finish: Group Stage (2008, 2012)
Qualified: 2nd Group D
UEFA Euro 2012: Group Stage

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. Wojciech Szczesny (Arsenal), 12. Artur Boruc (Bournemouth), 22. Lukasz Fabianski (Swansea City).
Defenders: 2. Michal Pazdan (Legia Warsaw), 3. Artur Jedrzejczyk (Legia Warsaw), 4. Thiago Cionek (Palermo), 14. Jakub Wawrzyniak (Lechia Gdansk), 15. Kamil Glik (Torino), 18. Bartosz Salamon (Cagliari), 20. Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund).
Midfielders:
5. Krzysztof Maczynski (Wisla Krakow), 6. Tomasz Jodlowiec (Legia Warsaw), 8. Karol Linetty (Lech Poznan), 10. Grzegorz Krychowiak (Sevilla), 11. Kamil Grosicki (Rennes), 16. Jakub Blaszczykowski (Fiorentina), 17. Slawomir Peszko (Lechia Gdansk), 19. Piotr Zielinski (Empoli), 21. Bartosz Kapustka (Cracovia), 23. Filip Starzynski (Zaglebie Lubin).
Forwards:
7. Arkadiusz Milik (Ajax), 9. Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munchen), 13. Mariusz Stepinski (Ruch Chorzow).

Form Guide

The Polish started their campaign with a 7-0 victory over Gibraltar, but they pulled off a more significant victory against the Germans in their second game. A 2-2 draw against Scotland halted their progress, and a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Germany proved costly, but Robert Lewandowski netted 13 times and they sealed qualification with a 2-1 victory over Ireland in Warsaw.

Strengths

In Lewandowski the Polish have one of the best players in the world, and he can be relied upon to provide plenty of goals. His combination with Arkadiusz Milik will be particularly exciting for Polish fans, with the pair contributing 19 goals in qualifying and causing plenty of headaches for opposition defences. Jakub Blaszczykowski has vast experience, and his work on the wing will be a nightmare for fullbacks, while Grzegorz Krychowiak has the chance to establish himself as a midfield force during this tournament.

Weaknesses

The midfield is fairly strong and the attack has plenty of power, but there is a general lack of depth throughout the squad. Krychowiak and Blaszczykowski are both great players, but the midfield as a whole lacks the kind of big game experience that those two players can provide. The story is much the same down back, and despite the strength of the attack this could prove costly. There is a general lack of experience across the board, and the pressure of playing at the highest level could get to them, which would be an issue.

Star Player: Robert Lewandowski

Lewandowski was a star at Borussia Dortmund, and after a four-year stint with the club he moved to Bayern Munich, where he has continued to find the net. This season he has been in electrifying form, with 30 league goals in 34 games on top of his haul in qualifying. He is no stranger to the big stage, and he will be hard to stop at the top of his game.

Key Player: Grzegorz Krychowiak

Krychowiak had a breakout season in 2014-15, winning the Europa League with Sevilla and being named in the La Liga team of the year. He is a key cog in Poland’s midfield, and his work will be invaluable given the side’s slight weakness in the centre of defence. If he fails to fire then there could be some serious defensive issues for the whole side.

Verdict

The Polish have some excellent players all around the ground, but squad depth and big game experience could be issues. Up front, Lewandowski and Milik will cause plenty of issues for opposition defences, and if they can get good support from the midfield they could be one of the best attacking teams in the tournament.

Northern Ireland

Head Coach: Michael O’Neill
Captain: Steven Davis
Previous Appearances: None
Best Finish: N/A
Qualified: 1st Group F
UEFA Euro 2012: Did not qualify

Squad

Goalkeepers: 1. Michael McGovern (Hamilton), 12. Roy Carroll (Notts County), 23. Alan Mannus (St Johnstone).
Defenders:
2. Conor McLaughlin (Fleetwood Town), 4. Gareth McAuley (West Bromwich Albion), 5. Jonny Evans (West Bromwich Albion), 6. Chris Baird (Fulham), 15. Luke McCullough (Doncaster Rovers), 17. Paddy McNair (Manchester United), 18. Aaron Hughes (Melbourne City), 20. Craig Cathcart (Watford), 22. Lee Hodson (Milton Keynes Dons).
Midfielders:
3. Shane Ferguson (Millwall), 8. Steven Davis (Southampton), 13. Corry Evans (Blackburn Rovers), 14. Stuart Dallas (Leeds United), 16. Oliver Norwood (Reading), 19. Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest), 21. Josh Magennis (Kilmarnock).
Forwards:
7. Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), 9. Will Grigg (Wigan Athletic), 10. Kyle Lafferty (Birmingham City), 11. Conor Washington (QPR).

Form Guide

The Northern Irish were one of the main benefactors of the sudden Greek capitulation that took place in qualifying, and they qualified for their first major tournament since 1986 with a 3-1 win over Greece in Belfast, with captain Steven Davis netting twice. Kyle Lafferty was in incredible form throughout, scoring seven times as Northern Ireland kept marching on.

Strengths

In goal, Roy Carroll has plenty of experience at the highest level, and the defence of Aaron Hughes, Gareth McAuley, Craig Cathcart and Jonny Evans proved hard to break down in qualifying and will be difficult for opposing sides to get through at the final tournament. Davis has plenty of experience and he will be a steady presence in midfield, and Lafferty will be very difficult to stop up front. The Northern Irish have quality players all over the park, and Northern Ireland will be a tough side to play at the final tournament.

Weaknesses

With the exception of the defence there is very little big game experience throughout the side. The squad is generally confined within Britain, but there are very few players who are currently in the Premier League. There is also a question as to whether Northern Ireland were really tested in qualifying. Their qualifying group did not contain any top-class sides, and they have not faced a top quality opponent for some time. They will play the reigning world champions at the final tournament, and if they are not careful this could prove a massive reality check.

Star Player: Steven Davis

Davis has been capped 81 times by Northern Ireland, and he will lead the side at the tournament. He has played with Aston Villa, Fulham and Southampton in the Premier League, and he also has experience in the Champions League with Rangers. He is a high-quality midfielder, and his impact both defensively and in attack could be key to the side’s success.

Key Player: Kyle Lafferty

Lafferty was excellent in qualifying, bagging seven goals, but the final tournament will be both a step up in pressure and in quality. While this may be the case, Lafferty’s role in the side stays exactly the same, and he will be relied upon to keep up his production. If he fails against better sides then the Northern Irish will find it very tough to score.

Verdict

The Northern Irish will be very difficult to get through in the final tournament, and their experience down back will be helpful. While this is the case there is a lack of big game experience throughout the side, and the step up in opposition and pressure could create some issues. The side’s dependence on Lafferty for goals could be another potential problem as they try to make an impact.

Prediction

The Germans are coming into the tournament in poor form, but they are always strong and while they will face some tough competition in Poland they should progress comfortably enough. Lewandowski and Milik form possibly the best attacking combination at the finals, and Poland should be able to progress in second place.
1. Germany, 2. Poland, 3. Ukraine, 4. Northern Ireland.

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