The gap in our gradings between Germany and the second best team in Group C, Ukraine, is a massive 36.7 points which is virtually the same as the difference between the best and worst teams in Group A, France and Albania. So Ukraine, Poland and Northern Ireland should be playing for second place here. Indeed, Germany are as short as 1.4 to top Group C. Now vastly experienced as the German manager, Jogi Low made the breakthrough at the World Cup having hit the crossbar several times, making it to the final in his first major international tournament in the 2008 Euros, coming third in the 2010 World Cup and making the semis of the last Euros before the triumph in Brazil. There’s lots to like about this German XI and if, as we expect, they start Gotze, Ozil, Draxler and Muller as their front four they could rack up a rugby score against any or all of their Group C opponents.
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Poland are certainly a team on the up. After a poor 2012 competition as co-hosts and then a disappointing World Cup qualifying campaign they were impressive in finishing just one point behind rivals Germany in qualifying for these Finals. That included scoring more than any other nation in getting here and also a win over the World Champions. Indeed, their recent record against Germany, of one defeat in four meetings since 2011, is excellent but repeating that in a major tournament will undoubtedly be far harder. In Robert Lewandowksi they’ve one of Europe’s great strikers. The Munich forward finished as the Bundesliga’s top scorer with 30 goals in 32 appearances and over 40 goals in all competitions. He was also the top scorer in Euro 2016 qualifying with 13 strikes, although six of these did come against Gibraltar. After netting just once in a disappointing Euro 2012 campaign for Poland, he’ll be keen to make amends on the big stage here.
Ukraine have not lost to Poland since 2000 and won both meetings when they met in qualifying for the last World Cup. However, in their four qualifiers against Spain and Slovakia, Ukraine failed to score as each game finished with no more than a single strike. Their main threat comes from the wings via Konoplyanka and Yarmolenko. The latter managed 13 goals and 10 assists in 23 league appearances and he also scored a couple of goals in the Champions League group stages. Ukraine’s lack of goals could cost them and we’d expect Poland to be more ruthless against Northern Ireland. That should mean that the Poles can afford to draw when the teams meet in their final group game and as a result Ukraine may have to rely on going through in third.
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