UEFA EURO 2016 Preview – Group C: The current World Champions GERMANY seem to have taken a step back over the last couple of years under Joachim Löw. That said, many people believe this is Die Mannschaft’s trophy to lose. Kroos, Gómez, Özil, Götze, and Müller have all scored in the lead up to the tournament, and with their base close to home in the glorious spa town of Évian-les-Bains, it should be a comfortable stroll through the group. Buoyant after a quite sensational qualifying campaign, NORTHERN IRELAND will surprise many by reaching the knockout stages through sheer will and determination. Former Shamrock Rovers F.C. boss Michael O’Neill has worked wonders and the Green and White Army will be the best fans at the show. They also go into the Euros on the back of a 12 match unbeaten run, a team united and brimming with confidence and excitement. All eyes will be on nomadic striker Kyle Lafferty, who after a successful spell at Italian club Fc Palermo 1900 was branded an “out-of-control womaniser” by president Maurizio Zamparini and promptly sold. They’ll need his “fox-in-the-box” instincts to fire them into the round of 16. Oh, POLAND! After an absolute horror show as co-hosts 4 years ago, The White Eagles will be looking to make up for lost time and promise. Top scorers in all of qualifying with 33 goals, mainly thanks to the perennial talent of Robert Lewandowski, and aptly support by young AFC Ajax hotshot Arkadiusz Milik, they will look to topple the old enemy Germany once again after beating them for the first time in their history in the qualifying stages. Similar to the Poles, UKRAINE endured a torrid tenure as co-hosts in 2012, failing to escape from the group stages. Despite also failing to reach the World Cup in Brasil, faith in coach Mykhaylo Fomenko was rewarded with a narrow win against Slovenia in the playoffs for the Euros. Built around FC Dynamo Kyiv‘s versatile forward Andriy Yarmolenko, the Збірна will hope to hold off the Germans first up in Lille before becoming more aggressive in their other two fixtures. History is against them, and the unrest in the country does not help matters.
Can “Norn Iron” pull a Leicester City Football Club and shock the Euros? I sure hope so, it would be wonderful for European Football. The Eastern Bloc will surely have something to say about that so Northern Ireland will need to defend like Spartans behind a green and white Iron Curtain!
Fun link between all the teams – Ukraine skipper Anatoliy Tymoshchuk holds the record number of caps for his country (147) and currently plays in Kazakhstan with ex-Russia captain Andrey Arshavin, who made his professional debut in a 3–0 away win over Bradford City Football Club (Official page) in the Intertoto Cup, a now defunct European club competition won most times by German club VfB Stuttgart 1893 e.V.Stuttgart’s Polish keeper Przemysław Tytoń was part of the last Poland squad that performed dreadfully as co-hosts in 2012. In fact, in the opening match against Greece, Polish keeper Wojciech Szczesny was given a straight red card after giving away a penalty. Tytoń came on as a substitute to replace him and saved the penalty taken by Greek captain Giorgos Karagounis. Karagounis, like Tymoshchuk, holds the record number of caps for his country (139) and played at Fulham with Northern Ireland defender Chris Baird!