By Antony Jordan
Group C of the 2016 European Championships in France comes to a close this Tuesday with two high stakes and high pressure clashes as bottom of the group Ukraine face second placed Poland in Marseille while the perhaps the biggest game in the history of Northern Irish football happens at the Parc des Princes as Michael O’Neill’s side take on the world champions Germany looking to upset the odds and assure themselves of a place in the last 16 stage.
Can Northern Ireland cause perhaps the biggest shock ever seen at the European Championships? Online sportsbook Sports Interaction do not believe so and we preview both of these final Group C matches with them to provide our best Euro 2016 picks.
The Germans came into Group C as the clear favourites to sit top of the pile after three matches, yet with just 90 minutes to go they are level with Poland and just one point ahead of their opposition who they will clash with in the French capital this Tuesday evening. They were second best to Poland in their second group game and can consider themselves lucky to have finished that game with a point against a side that they won one and lost one in qualification for this tournament. However, they will point out that they are yet to concede a goal in France this summer and that the game against the Poles was a ‘freebie’ as they know that the four points they have accumulated will see them into the last 16 stage no matter what happens in this match.
They have, however, been very disappointing in front of goal with pre-tournament top goalscorer favourite Thomas Muller failing to find the net while manager Joachim Low has not been playing up front, instead persisting with out of form Mario Götze. Their goals came against Ukraine through a defender and a midfielder and they’ll need their key players to start finding the net if they’re to secure a World Cup and European Championship double this summer, but are Northern Ireland the perfect side to start their push against?
Northern Ireland did play a very defensive formation against Poland in their opener and they were second best in that match throughout the 90 minutes as they were beaten 1-0, but Michael O’Neill tweaked the side for the clash with Ukraine and they made history with these changes. They were more attacking and much better to win 2-0, recording their first ever European Championship match victory, and will approach this clash full of confidence, knowing that a point will secure their place in the last 16 stage.
They are most likely to revert to a more defensive formation in an attempt to stifle the Germans and as they have conceded just two goals in their last seven clashes we can see a misfiring Germany having issues breaking down the Group C minnows.
Euro 2016 Picks Best Bet
With Ukraine having lost to Northern Ireland in their last match and now three points away from the third placed side their competition is already over and they have been eliminated, but how will they approach this final match? Will they aim to return home with their heads held high or will they be cut to ribbons by an impressive Poland side who only need a point no matter what happens in the other Group C game to secure an automatic place in the knockout stages of this tournament?
Ukraine have conceded four goals and scored none so far as they were beaten 2-0 by both Germany and Northern Ireland and with their opposition this evening, with whom they co-hosted the 2012 European Championships, have conceded no goals and scored one to see them needing just a point to be assured of an automatic place in the last 16 no matter what happens at the Parc des Princes. Ukraine boss Mykhaylo Fomenko is likely to make changes for this match with the aim of returning home with a result under their belts, but we feel that the quality the Polish side have in their ranks, especially up front in Robert Lewandowski and Arkadiusz Milik, will see them win this match even though they only need a point and are likely not to push if the game is level late on.