Games of the Day
Ukraine vs. Poland, Marseille, 17:00
Northern Ireland vs. Germany, Paris, 17:00
Germany – 4pts
Poland – 4pts
Northern Ireland – 3pts
Ukraine – 0pts
The last set of games in this group saw the perfect juxtaposition of emotions that tournament football throws together. The euphoria of seeing Gareth McCauley thunder a header home as Northern Ireland picked up their first ever European Championship win was one sight. To then be met with one of the dourest 0-0 draws played out by Germany and Poland. I can appreciate a good 0-0 if the chances are there but Christ that took some watching.
Alas, it is another day and the glories of goal difference might change the shape of this Euro’s if both Poland and Germany win today with the price of coming second a likely tie against France in the round of 16, finishing top seems to have great importance in this group.
So who is favourite for the top slot? Whilst Germany may sit pretty at the moment, with Poland, playing a Ukraine side that bar the first 45 minutes against Germany seems to be getting worse for every half of football that passes by and Germany playing an impressive Northern Ireland side, this could be the first real surprise of the tournament.
Germany’s match against Northern Ireland won’t be an easy ride for Mario Gotze and co. as Northern Ireland proved against Poland that they are more than happy on the ropes trying to ride the punches. Whilst that ultimately failed for Michael O’Neill against Poland, with both games being played simultaneously, anxiety may creep into the German fans if Poland turn on the style and go for the goals against Ukraine whilst it’s still 0-0 in Paris.
In a tournament where perhaps the only two real statements of intent from the ‘big teams’ have been Italy’s defeat of Belgium and Spain’s defeat of Turkey, Germany (like France) haven’t had that ‘I’M HERE’ moment. The lack of striking options seem to be the real limiting factor for Joachim Low and Germany. Whilst Mario Gomez may have scored a few in Turkey this season, having a large no.9 jars against the philosophy that Low has instilled into the World Cup winners. Whilst Mario Gotze still struggles to play as a false no.9, Low might opt for Andre Schurrle up top and hope that his pace might stretch the defence and create the space for Mesut Ozil and Toni Kroos.
Poland on the other hand will be hoping that Robert Lewandowski starts scoring. For one of the most talented players at this championship, ‘Lewy’ is yet to find the yet. Whether that is because teams are marking him out of the game or just a case that he isn’t getting the luck of green, if Lewandowski had the chances that Arkadiusz Milik had against Germany, you would feel that Poland would have already qualified.
A special mention for Michael O’Neill and Northern Ireland. Whilst beating Germany will be a massive ask, the five changes made by O’Neill for the Ukraine game paid dividends as he searched the win. Getting out of this group should be heralded as a massive achievement, and whilst defeat may be likely to Germany, let’s all hope that 3pts will be enough to see them progress.
Rich, The Sweeper Football Blog