The third group, Euro 2016 Group C, from this summer’s European Championships in France that we’re taking a look at features four sides who are all capable of defeating the other and could easily be the most competitive of all six groupings.
We preview the chances of all the German, Polish, Ukrainian and Northern Irish sides in France this summer with online sportsbook Bet365.com to provide you with our best Group C picks.
Euro 2016 Group C Fixtures:
12/06/2016 – Poland v Northern Ireland
12/06/2016 – Germany v Ukraine
16/06/2016 – Ukraine v Northern Ireland
16/06/2016 – Germany v Poland
21/06/2016 – Ukraine v Poland
21/06/2016 – Northern Ireland v Germany
Group C Winner (To qualify for KO Stage) Odds with Bet365.com:
This German side is not only three time champions of Europe (twice winning as West Germany in 1972 and 1980) but, apart from the 2004 European Championships, they have reached the Semi Finals of every FIFA competition since 2002. They are the current world champions having lifted the trophy at the 2014 World Cup in Brazil by beating Argentina in the final following a 7-1 hammering of the hosts at the final four stage. Despite this excellent record at actual competitions things were very tight in their qualification group as they topped Group D by just one point, ahead of group mates Poland, and suffered defeats to both the Poles and the Republic of Ireland.
Although they are the world champions they have lost some players in recent times with Philipp Lahm and Miroslav Klose both retiring after lifting the World Cup and new captain Bastian Schweinsteiger will likely miss this competition due to injury. They have not been getting results like champions either with losses to England and France in friendly matches over the last six months, but a 4-1 win over Italy in March will see them with a little more belief. Manager Joachim Low has the experience to get the best out of his side and with him mixing experience and youth in this squad he, the German nation and we feel that this squad powered by the goals of Thomas Müller (with 28 this season and nine in the qualifying campaign) will cruise through to the latter stages of this competition.
The Polish team are the second favourites to progress from this third group in France this summer and with them having defeated the Germans in qualification as well as having one of the top strikers in Europe in their ranks they will believe that they can progress. They may, in fact, even fancy their chances at topping the group and seeing off the Germans! If anyone in this group can do it, it’ll be the Poles powered by Robert Lewandowski who fired in 39 goals for Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga and Champions League this season. As well as this he was the leading scorer in the qualification campaign with 13 goals and if he can perform at this level in France this summer a shock may be on the cards.
The striker has scored six goals at the last two World Cups and the 2012 European Championships so he knows that he can perform, and with him in better form than ever before he is one of the favourites to end the tournament as the top scorer. He is backed up with a solid spine of the national team with midfielders Jakub Błaszczykowski and Grzegorz Krychowiak offering plenty of creativity and endeavour while Arkadiusz Milik has contributed plenty of goals with ten in 24 appearances for the side. Add to this a trio of top quality goalkeepers to choose from in Wojciech Szczęsny, Łukasz Fabiański and Artur Boruc, all who have performed excellently in the Italian and English top flights this season, and this Poland side could be one of the dark horses not only to progress from Group C but to get to the latter stages in France.
The 2016 European Championships in France is just the third time that we will see Ukraine in action at an international competition and they will be hoping that this goes more like the 2006 World Cup than six years later on home soil as they reached the Quarter Finals in the former tournament and crashed out at the group stage in front of their own fans. They did not make qualification for this summer’s event easy either as home and away losses to Spain (despite two good performances) as well as defeat in Kiev against Slovakia, who finished second, saw them face Slovenia in a Play Off and only a late away goal saw them ease the pressure to book their place in France this summer.
The biggest strength for Ukraine is their defensive ability as between their ten game group campaign and two legged qualification Play Off they conceded just five goals, but they also have some danger in attack too with wingers Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka both capable of finding the net with 23 and 11 goals respectively for the national side. However, outside of Shakhtar Donetsk striker Yevhen Seleznyov there is very little international experience and even less goals. If they’re to progress they’ll need to shut out both the Germans and Lewandowski, but are they good enough to do this?
When the qualification groups were announced in February 2014 and the Northern Irish side were drawn with Romania, Hungary, Finland, the Faroe Islands and 2004 champions Greece no-one expected Michael O’Neill’s side, who had never reached the European Championships and last competed on the international stage at the 1986 World Cup, to top Group F and breeze into France for the summer festivities. In doing so, they became the lowest seeded side to ever qualify for this tournament, but can they escape the group stage?
It is highly unlikely that they will be able to do this as this group contains three sides that are more difficult to get past than anyone in their qualification group and the small nation does not have widest range of talent available to choose from. Their squad for the tournament contains just five players who spent last season the Premier League with the rest coming from the second and third tiers of English football, Scotland and Aaron Hughes played in the Australian A-League while 38 year old goalkeeper Roy Carroll, formerly of Manchester United, was between the sticks for League Two side Notts County. They are a solid team and they will each live and die for this side in France this summer while aiming to give their fans something to cheer for in their first tournament for three decades, but the odds are correct for the Northern Ireland team and progress will be a step too far.
The biggest game in this group will be the final day meeting of Ukraine v Poland as it looks as if both sides will be defeated by the Germans and will pick up all three points against Northern Ireland to leave this as vital for both sides to attempt to ensure that they pick up second spot and a guaranteed place in the knockout phase.
Ultimately, we feel that the difference between these two sides will be the aforementioned Robert Lewandowski and that the Bayern Munich man will be able to fire Poland to second spot in the group and into the last 16 stage.
As a result of this we are backing Germany and Poland to finish first and second in the group, but with Poland capable of beating Germany, as they showed in the qualifying group, we are covering ourselves by backing them first and second on the dual forecast market that pays out when the sides finish in either position.