Euro 2016 Group C Preview
Germany’s team is still full of the talented superstars that won the World Cup two years ago, but their qualifying campaign showed that they are not as impressive as they were in Brazil. It is fair to say that Germany have the strongest squad with players such as Manuel Neuer, Jerome Boateng, Mesut Özil and Thomas Müller to name but a few. However, it appears that Joachim Löw’s men have missed talisman Philipp Lahm and top goalscorer Miroslav Klose.
(27-man provisional squad)
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen), Marc-Andre ter-Stegen (Barcelona)
Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Emre Can (Liverpool), Jonas Hector (Koln), Benedikt Howedes (Schalke), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia), Antonio Rudiger (Roma), Sebastian Rudy (Hoffenheim)
Midfielders: Sami Khedira (Juventus), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Andre Schurrle (Wolfsburg), Marco Reus (Borussia Dortmund), Karim Bellarabi (Bayer Leverkusen), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Mario Gotze (Bayern Munich), Julian Draxler (Wolfsburg), Leroy Sane (Schalke), Julian Brandt (Bayer Leverkusen), Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich)
Forwards: Thomas Muller (Bayern Munich), Mario Gomez (Besiktas), Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray)
Germany’s squad again shows their strength and depth when it comes to goalkeepers. The incredible Manuel Neuer, who was named third best player in the world last January, will almost certainly be the starting goalkeeper but Barcelona’s Marc-André ter Stegen and Leverkusen’s Bernd Leno are certainly adept replacements if called upon.
Defensively, Germany are also very strong. Philipp Lahm’s absence may be felt but Jonas Hector is proficient replacement for the former captain. The central defensive partnership of Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng—who will be team-mates next year—is perhaps one of the best in the world. Boateng’s pace and composure on the ball and Hummels’ aerial ability make them a very strong partnership. Neither of the two centre-backs played in Germany’s second half capitulation to England earlier this year. The defence also has fantastic depth with Emre Can, Shkodran Mustafi, Benedikt Höwedes and Antonio Rüdiger all ready to make an impact if needed.
In the midfield area, Die Mannschaft are strongest in the tournament. Defensive-minded midfielders Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos will allow more creative and attacking midfielders Marco Reus, Mesut Özil and Mario Götze the chance to flourish. The young exciting talents of Julian Weigl and Julian Draxler show Germany’s dynamic and creative midfield options while again highlighting their depth.
It is attacking-wise where Germany’s problems lie. The squad has a lot of attacking talent especially in midfield but lacks an out-and-out striker. Thomas Müller is very talented but it will be interesting to see if he is deployed as a centre-forward or on the wing by Joachim Löw. Strikers Mario Gomez and Lukas Podolski bring useful experience but their age may limit their influence.
Manager: Joachim Löw
Löw has spent a decade as Germany manager and two years ago finally won a major tournament after eight years of tantalisingly close efforts that ultimately ended in disappointment. The 56-year-old was expected to stand down after 2014’s triumph but he showed his ambitious nature by signing an extension until the end of the 2018 World Cup.
How they qualified
Germany’s qualification campaign was not a straightforward as it usually is. In a difficult group including the resilient Poland, Scotland and Ireland, the World Cup holders eventually won the group but had more than a few disappointing performances.
Die Mannschaft struggled against Scotland before eventually winning 2-1 in Dortmund before a shock 2-0 defeat in Warsaw. They then dropped two points at home to Ireland in Gelsenkirchen after John O’Shea headed home a 94th minute equalizer. Another disappointing defeat came in Dublin as Shane Long secured a historic victory for the Irish.
Germany ended their qualifying campaign with a less than convincing 2-1 win over Georgia in Leipzig. Friendly defeats to England and the Netherlands highlighted that they are not currently on the top of their game but a 4-1 win over Italy in their last match showed glimpses of the 2014 success.
(28-man provisional squad)
Goalkeepers: Andriy Pyatov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Denys Boyko (Besiktas), Mykyta Shevchenko (Zorya Lugansk)
Defenders: Vyacheslav Shevchuk, Yaroslav Rakitskyi, Oleksandr Kucher (all Shakhtar Donetsk), Yevgen Khacheridi (Dynamo Kiev), Artem Fedetskyi (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Mykyta Kamenyuka (Zorya Lugansk), Bogdan Butko (Amkar Perm)
Midfielders: Anatoliy Tymoshchuk (Kairat), Taras Stepanenko, Viktor Kovalenko, Maksym Malyshev (all Shakhtar Donetsk), Ruslan Rotan, Yevgen Shakhov (both Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Yevgen Konoplyanka (Sevilla), Oleg Gusyev, Sergiy Rybalka, Denys Garmash, Sergiy Sydorchuk, Andriy Yarmolenko (all Dynamo Kiev), Oleksandr Karavayev, Ivan Petryak (both Zorya Lugansk), Oleksandr Zinchenko (Ufa)
Forwards: Roman Zozulya (Dnipro Dnipropetrovsk), Artem Kravets (Stuttgart), Pylyp Budkivskyi (Zorya Lugansk)
Ukraine’s squad is an interesting one. Most of the squad (23/28) are from within the Ukrainian league and this leads to them having a very unknown squad which potentially could work in their advantage. However, the squad also includes well-known players in the form of the highly sought after Andriy Yarmolenko who has been a target for both Merseyside clubs over the past couple of weeks.
As well as Yarmolenko, the squad includes veterans Andriy Pyatov and Anatoliy Tymoschchuk, who will bring valuable experience, and forward Artem Kravets who has impressed for Dynamo Kyiv over the past couple of seasons. However, the squad arguably relies too heavily on players from within Ukraine and lacks wide range of talented stars.
Manager: Mykhaylo Fomenko
The country are led by experienced manager Mykhaylo Fomenko. The 67-year-old has managed 20 teams since his managerial career began in 1979 and will be hoping his travelled career will help him bring success to Ukraine.
How they qualified
Ukraine qualified for the tournament through the play-offs beating Slovenia 3-1 on aggregate after finishing third in their qualifying group behind Spain and Slovakia.
(28-man provisional squad)
Goalkeepers: Artur Boruc (Bournemouth), Łukasz Fabianski (Swansea City), Wojciech Szczesny (Roma), Przemysław Tyton (Stuttgart)
Defenders: Thiago Cionek (Palermo), Paweł Dawidowicz (Benfica), Kamil Glik (Torino), Artur Jedrzejczyk (Legia Warsaw), Michał Pazdan (Legia Warsaw), Lukasz Piszczek (Borussia Dortmund), Maciej Rybus (Terek Grozny), Bartosz Salamon (Cagliari), Jakub Wawrzyniak (Lechia Gdansk)
Midfielders: Jakub Blaszczykowski (Fiorentina), Kamil Grosicki (Rennes), Tomasz Jodlowiec (Legia Warsaw), Bartosz Kapustka (Cracovia), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Sevilla), Karol Linetty (Lech Poznan), Krzysztof Mączynski (Wisła Krakow), Slawomir Peszko (Lechia Gdansk), Filip Starzynski (Zaglebie Lubin), Paweł Wszołek (Verona), Piotr Zielinski (Empoli)
Forwards: Robert Lewandowski (Bayern Munich), Arkadiusz Milik (Ajax), Artur Sobiech (Hannover), Mariusz Stepinski (Ruch Chorzow).
The Poland squad is full of real talent including Robert Lewandowski, Jakub Blaszczykowski and Grzegorz Krychowiak to name but a few. Poland are very strong in terms of goalkeepers with Stuttgart’s Przemysław Tyton and Premier League goalkeepers Artur Boruc and Łukasz Fabianski, as well as Wojciech Szczesny. They are arguably weakest in defence but still have strength in Borussia Dortmund’s Lukasz Piszczek and Torino’s Kamil Glik.
In midfield, Poland are very strong with the outstanding Grzegorz Krychowiak providing strong cover for the defence behind him, as well as Jakub Blaszczykowski bringing the creative spark in midfield. Attacking-wise Poland are also very strong, with Robert Lewandowski leading the line. The 27-year-old has been in sensational form for Bayern Munich this season, finding the net 42 times. He was top goalscorer in qualifying with 13 goals in 10 games. Arkadiusz Milik and Artur Sobiech also provide good cover in attack.
Manager: Adam Nawalka
Manager Adam Nawalka has been a revelation for Poland since taking up the post as manager three years ago. Losing just three times in his first 29 games, he has taken a side that failed to impress in World Cup qualifying to one of the stronger sides in the whole competition. The 58-year-old has also seemed to have got the best out of Robert Lewandowski internationally.
How they qualified
Poland qualified for finals after finishing second in their qualifying group with Germany, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. The best moment of their impressive qualifying campaign was an historic win over rivals Germany in Warsaw.
Michael O’Neill has not yet named his squad for the Euros but it will certainly be intriguing when he does. Northern Ireland surprisingly qualified for their first major tournament since 1986 after years of disappointment.
Many believe that the squad is not strong enough to compete with the likes of Germany and Poland with just four players from the Premier League (Evans, McNair, McAuley, Davis) in their most recent squad showing this. However, O’Neill’s men showed their passion, character and quality on their day in qualifying and who’s to say that they can’t compete with Europe’s big hitters?
Kyle Lafferty was the surprise talisman for Northern Ireland, scoring seven goals in qualifying—only five players scored more than the 28-year-old. Steven Davis and Johnny Evans will also be key players.
Manager: Michael O’Neill
Michael O’Neill worked wonders by leading Northern Ireland to their first tournament in 30 years. The 46-year-old was under pressure after winning just two of his opening 22 games in charge of the national team. However, he has since been heralded as a Northern Irish hero and any doubts about him have been dispelled.
How they qualified
Northern Ireland qualified for their first major tournament in three decades by topping Group F. The group had been labelled ‘easy’ by some but it is worth remembering that they were the pot five team in the group when it was drawn. Memorable wins include doing the double over 2004 Euro winners Greece, who finished last in Group F behind the Faroe Islands, managed by none other than Leicester’s Claudio Ranieri, and a 2-1 win in Budapest over Hungary.