A really tough set of games for Northern Ireland to be drawn in, with World Champions Germany heading up Group C at big odds on to win the Group. Poland and Ukraine make up the others and they are both dark horses to progress and potentially reach the quarters or semis. Check out our expert views and best bets for Group C.
Germany only won their qualifying group by one point, and they face Poland again after just pipping them to first place in Group D. Much is expected from the World Cup winners, but their form in friendlies has had much to worry about, although they were in similar form in the run up to Brazil in 2014 so tournament form usually comes to them fairly quickly. They have plenty of star players and the likes of Thomas Muller, Mario Gotze and Mesut Ozil can light up any tournament with their stunning build up play and precise finishing. Muller is big favorite to be his country’s top scorer and also joint favorite along with Ronaldo for the Golden Boot. At 8/1 that looks like a value bet that will become better as the tournament goes on.
Poland will be Germany’s biggest foes in Group C and the consistent side can qualify in the runners up spot. Undoubtedly their best and most influential player is Bayern’s scoring machine Robert Lewandowski who is arguably the best striker in Europe at present. He scored 13 in qualification but won’t get as easy a time here and the question is whether he will get the service that he requires to hit the net. They will fancy themselves to get out of the group and even have hopes of beating arch rivals Germany, but in reality second place is their target.
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Ukraine got through via the play offs beating Slovenia 3-1 on aggregate and playing some nice football along the way. They have many experienced players and also a few youngsters who could go on to big things at big clubs. Viktor Kovalenko is one, at only 19 years old he’s already a regular in the Shakhtar Donetsk side after coming through the ranks, and he may get the nod to start for Ukraine. Other players to watch are Andriy Yarmolenko who has 23 goals for his country and despite being a wide man is fairly prolific in international games. A big tussle is on the card with Poland for that runners up spot.
The big outsiders of the championship and their Group, Northern Ireland will enjoy every minute after an amazing qualification got them on the plane to France. They have a scattering of Premier League players, but most come form the Championship including Wigan’s Will Grigg who has had an impressive domestic season winning promotion from League one who could light up the underdogs. Steven Davis is the most experienced squad player and will lead his team out, relying on his Southampton season to cajole his team mates along. They should be a good watch, but unfortunately they will need plenty of luck to proceed to the knock outs.
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