After the second round of matches Ukraine became the first team to be knocked out of Euro 2016 when they fell to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of Northern Ireland. Germany sit joint top of the group alongside Poland after the pair played out a 0-0 draw.
Northern Ireland remained in contention to reach the knock out stages thanks to their first victory at a major tournament for 34 years. It is now guaranteed that Michael O’Neil’s men will finish at least third in Group C.
The 1-0 opening day loss to Poland didn’t bode well for their Euro 2016 campaign but goals from Gareth McAuley and Niall McGinn made them one of the strongest contenders to qualify as the best third-placed teams.
Poland’s only goal of the tournament came against the Boys in Green. Arek Milik was the scorer in the group’s opening game but the Ajax forward and Robert Lewandowski were unable to breach an unforgiving Germany rearguard when the two sides met in an uneventful stalemate.
Germany appear to still be finding their feet in the tournament. In their opening game against Ukraine they strolled to a 2-0 win without particularly impressing. After breaking the deadlock inside 20 minutes through deputy center back Shkodran Mustafi, Bastian Schweinsteiger hopped off the bench to make a rare cameo to put the icing on the cake with the second goal.
Jerome Boateng has starred for Germany in the tournament so far. That gives a small insight into how Die Mannschaft have performed so far. Boateng was the man of the match against Poland and hung suspended in mid air to clear the ball from the line versus Ukraine in one of the moments of the tournament so far.
In the final game Ukraine will be making up the numbers against Poland, as they know they mathematically cannot qualify for the last-16. Mykhaylo Fomenko’s side boasted a mean defense heading into the tournament but they have been unable to replicate that in France where they conceded twice to each of Germany and Northern Ireland.
Before the tournament Ukraine were a team divided from a country with a host of social, political and economic problems. To make matters worse, after the defeat to Germany photos were published of the Ukraine dressing room that showed discarded beer cans and cigarette butts. The national team then hit rock bottom after being dumped out Euro 2016 with the defeat to Northern Ireland.
Germany and Poland will be looking to better each other’s result in order to claim top spot in Group C. The Irish meanwhile would settle for a point that could see them pinch one of the best third-placed spots against the odds. It is worth noting that a win would give them at least a 2nd placed finish in the group.
Group C As It Stands
Joachim Low’s team has struggled against sides from the Emerald Isle. Germany were only able to take a single point from two games against The Republic of Ireland in qualification.
With qualification still not guaranteed it is unlikely that Die Mannschaft coach will look to shuffle the pack too much. Mats Hummels made a return to the side from injury against Poland and could be rested for the knockouts meaning Mustafi could deputize again.
In both games so far Julian Draxler and Mario Gotze have not completed the full 90 minutes. The latter’s spot in the starting eleven is under threat with a debate over whether Mario Gomez should start ahead of him as he is a more traditional number nine. O the other hand Draxler could be given the night off to give Andre Schurrle some gametime.
The spine of the team continues to be built around world-class talent including Neuer, Boateng, Khedira, Kroos, Ozil and Muller. Normally unused on the bench there is also Bastian Schweinsteiger.
After the draw with Poland Joachim Low was still in a positive mood but admits that there are areas where Die Mannschaft can improve on.
“We were quite good defensively. Mats had his first game back and both center-backs, Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng, were very strong,” he said.
Adding: “Our game in the last third wasn’t fast enough. We hesitated and by the time we got there suddenly there were ten men behind the ball. Crosses and balls into the box – that’s what Poland want because that’s where their strength lies. Bringing Götze in made sense but we simply couldn’t impose ourselves on the game. We needed to attack better.”
Predicted Line Up: Neuer; Howedes, Boateng, Hummels, Hector; Khedira, Kroos, Muller, Ozil, Schurrle; Gotze.
Adam Nawalka’s Poland have been representing the 4-4-2 during Euro 2106 so far. They don’t have any injuries or suspensions for force a change but could rest one or two in preparation for the last-16.
There were two changes between the 1-0 victory over Northern Ireland and the 0-0 versus the World Champions. Against Germany Kamil Grosicki was preferred on the right wing to Bartosz Kapustka who had occupied the flank in the previous game. Lukasz Fabianski was selected ahead of Wojciech Szczesny for the Germany game but it was in reverse for the game before.
“I’m very happy with the team, in particular their discipline and tactical awareness, it all went exactly to plan,” said Nawlka after the draw to Germany.
Adding: “Robert Lewandowski’s performance is always vital to our game plan. He hasn’t scored, either against Northern Ireland or tonight, but he’s doing a lot of work. He is always thinking about the team and has played a huge role dragging defenders out of place and creating room for teammates. He is in optimum form.
“Now we have a few days to prepare for the final group game. We have a lot of potential.”
Predicted Line Up: Szczesny; Piszczek, Glik, Pazdan, Jedrzejczyk; Blaszczykowski, Krychowiak, Maczynski, Grosicki; Milik, Lewandowski.
Michael O’Neill deployed a 4-5-1 in the victory against Ukraine but in the loss to Poland had set up his side in a 5-3-2 for defensive security. It is unknown which the Irishman will go for against the World Champions.
Craig Cathcart avoided a second booking in as many games last time out meaning The Boys in Green have a full strength squad to choose from. Gareth McAuley and Johnny Evans will join Cathcart if three center backs are selected. The addition of Aaron Hughes means there will be a back four.
Amazingly, top scorer in qualification Kyle Lafferty was dropped for the Ukriane game, as was newfound star Will Grigg, when Connor Washington was selected instead. The Northern Ireland team selection is particularly tough to call and in light of recently changes can on guarantee that the side’s backbone will undoubtedly consist of skipper Steven Davis and Michael McGovern in between the sticks.
Gareth McAuley scored Northern Ireland first goal of his side’s Euro 2106 campaign, he was visibly moved by such a momentous moment for him and his country. “Yes, it’s special (to score the team’s first EURO goal),” he said.
“It’ll sink in probably over the next few days. It was the team performance that was pleasing tonight, the reaction from getting beaten against Poland, you know, we’ve got a tough game in Paris to look forward to now and we’ve got something to play for, and that’s what we wanted.”
Predicted Line Up: McGovern; Cathcart, McAuley, Evans, McLaughlin, Ferguson; McNair, Baird, Norwod, Davis; Lafferty.
In the defeat to Northern Ireland Mykhaylo Fomenko made only one change, replacing Roman Zozulya for Yevhan Seleznyov in the striker role.
The final game is meaningless for Ukraine and there may be one or two changes. This is likely to be Anatoli Tymoshchuk’s last ever game at a major tournament for his country so he will probably get the nod ahead of AneleNgcongca in midfield.
19-year-old midfielder Oleksandr Zinchenko could be handed his fourth cap for his country in attacking midfield. The youngster will join up with Borussia Dortmund after the tournament.
After being dumped out the tournament the Ukriane boss was understandably disappointed to say the least. “We made major mistakes on the pitch. We weren’t prepared enough mentally,” he said
“Perhaps our players overestimated the opponent and underestimated the effort needed to get victory. We allowed them to play their own football, that’s why we lost.”
Midfielder Taras Stepanenko added: “It’s clear that it was a do-or-die game today and it seems clear that we’re out of the tournament. The last game is not going to have any special value for the tournament, just for the prestige.”
Predicted Line Up: Pyatov; Fedetskiy, Khacheridi, Rakitskiy, Shevchuk; Stepanenko, Tymoshchuk, Yarmolenko, Zinchenko, Konoplyanka; Zozulya.