Two groups down, four to go! We now move onto Group C, which is a real tough group for Northern Ireland. The three others are Germany, Poland and Ukraine, so pretty much the worst group imaginable for the side making their début. Due to the one sided nature, with Germany expected to win the group, is who will qualify 2nd. Ukraine are a tough cookie, while Poland posses some truly class players.
Goalkeepers: Manuel Neuer (Bayern Munich), Bernd Leno (Bayer Leverkusen), Marc-Andre ter Stegen (Barcelona)
Defenders: Jerome Boateng (Bayern Munich), Emre Can (Liverpool), Jonas Hector (Cologne), Benedikt Hoewedes (Schalke 04), Mats Hummels (Borussia Dortmund), Shkodran Mustafi (Valencia), Antonio Ruediger (Roma)
Midfielders: Julian Draxler (VfL Wolfsburg), Sami Khedira (Juventus), Joshua Kimmich (Bayern Munich), Toni Kroos (Real Madrid), Thomas Mueller (Bayern Munich), Mesut Ozil (Arsenal), Lukas Podolski (Galatasaray), Andre Schuerrle (VfL Wolfsburg), Bastian Schweinsteiger (Manchester United), Julian Weigl (Borussia Dortmund)
Forwards: Mario Gomez (Besiktas), Mario Goetze (Bayern Munich), Leroy Sane (Schalke 04)
Coach: Jochim Loew
Qualifying: Group Winner
Germany go into this as 2nd favourite, but yet again they go into it without Marco Reus. They should go through their group – I’d take a whack that the odds are huge for them to go out in the 1st round! For me, their weakness is, and always has been full backs. Jonas Hector is decent, but in terms of strength in that area – they are one of the weakest of the big boys. They also lack the forwards, but Thomas Muller usually fills that role as Mario Gomez is getting on and Leroy Sane is a winger. He could be another to break onto the international scene in style, as he offers great pace, width and skill at a very young age! Anything but an appearance in the final would be deemed a failure, but having lost to England and Slovakia, their time as a dominant force could be coming to an end.
Goalkeepers: Roy Carroll (Notts County), Michael McGovern (Hamilton), Alan McManus (St Johnstone)
Defenders: Craig Cathcart (Watford), Jonny Evans (West Brom), Gareth McAuley (West Brom), Luke McCullough (Doncaster), Conor McLaughlin (Fleetwood), Aaron Hughes (Melbourne City), Lee Hodson (MK Dons), Chris Baird (Derby County), Paddy McNair (Manchester United.
Midfielders: Steven Davis (Southampton), Oliver Norwood (Reading), Corry Evans (Blackburn), Jamie Ward (Nottingham Forest), Stuart Dallas (Leeds), Niall McGinn (Aberdeen), Shane Ferguson (Millwall)
Forwards: Will Grigg (Wigan), Kyle Lafferty (Birmingham), Conor Washington (QPR), Josh Magennis (Kilmarnock)
Coach: Michael O’Neill
Qualifying: Won Group F
Although it’s excellent to see Northern Ireland qualify, there’s no doubt that had they had a slightly harder group they would have been knackered. Romania, Greece, Hungary, Finland and the Faroe Islands were hardly the toughest games, and with Greece having a nightmare of a qualification – it made it all the easier. They are among the toughest group and are likely to fail to win a game, though you never know what will happen! Germany, Ukraine and Poland are three very tough cookies that they are unlikely to crack.
Goalkeepers: Łukasz Fabiański (Swansea), Wojciech Szczęsny (Roma), Artur Boruc (Bournemouth).
Defenders: Thiago Cionek (Palermo), Kamil Glik (Torino), Artur Jędrzejczyk (Legia), Michał Pazdan (Legia), Łukasz Piszczek (Dortmund), Bartosz Salamon (Cagliari), Jakub Wawrzyniak (Lechia Gdańsk).
Midfielders: Jakub Błaszczykowski (Fiorentina), Kamil Grosicki (Rennes), Tomasz Jodłowiec (Legia), Bartosz Kapustka (Cracovia), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Sevilla), Karol Linetty (Lech Poznań), Krzysztof Mączyński (Wisła), Sławomir Peszko (Lechia Gdańsk), Filip Starzyński (Zagłębie Lubin), Piotr Zieliński (Empoli).
Forwards: Arkadiusz Milik (Ajax), Robert Lewandowski (Bayern), Mariusz Stępiński (Ruch Chorzów)
Coach: Adam Nawalka
Qualifying: 2nd in Group D, behind Germany and narrowly beating Rep Ireland to the last automatic spot.
Poland are a team full of quality players that often underachieve. With Lewandowski, Glik, Krychowiak and many more than I struggle to spell – they still managed to fail to qualify for the 2014 World Cup, getting just 2 points more than Moldova! On a good day, they can beat anyone – but at other times they are completely unpredictable. They should beat Northern Ireland, but Germany and Ukraine will be very tough games. The latter could be a very boring game indeed with two strong back fours. Goals are key, so Lewandowski will be the main man, with their wingers and midfielders will need to provide a decent feed to him if they are to get through.
Goalkeepers: Andriy Pyatov (Shakhtar Donetsk), Denys Boyko (Besiktas), Mykyta Shevchenko (Zorya)
Defenders: Artem Fedetskiy (Dnipro), Mykyta Kamenyuka (Zorya), Vyacheslav Shevchuk (Shakhtar Donetsk), Oleksandr Kucher (Shakhtar Donetsk), Yaroslav Rakytskyi (Shakhtar Donetsk), Yevhen Khacheridi (Dynamo Kiev)
Midfielders: Anatoliy Tymoschuk (Kairat Almaty), Oleksandr Karavaev (Zorya), Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kiev), Denys Garmash (Dynamo Kiev), Serhiy Sydorchuk (Dyamo Kiev), Serhiy Rybalka (Dynamo Kiev), Taras Stepanenko (Shakhtar Donetsk), Viktor Kovalenko (Shakhtar Donetsk), Ruslan Rotan (Dnipro), Yevhen Konoplyanka (Sevilla).
Forwards: Pylyp Budkovskyi (Zorya), Roman Zozulya (Dnipro), Yevhen Seleznyov (Shakhtar Donetsk)
Coach: Mykhaylo Fomenko
Qualification: 3rd in Group C, beating Slovenia 3-1 over two legs
Ukraine have some very good players that I’m looking forward to watching this summer. Yehven Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko are two exciting wide-men who score goals as well as make them. Add Seleznyov and Zozulya, and they have an excellent frontline. 67 year old coach Formenko is likely to retire after this tournament after a 30 year coaching career, while captain Anatoliy Tymoshchuk is 37 and it is likely that it will be his last tournament, so with both captain and coach wanting to go out with a bang they should be a good shout to qualify, even if it’s 3rd!
Betting wise it’s tough to gauge this group. Germany/Poland to go through in the top two is 1/1, while a Germany/Ukraine combo is 7/4. It’s a case of one or the other, no disrespect to Northern Ireland. Ukraine vs Poland is the key game, and after a 4-3 win over Romania for the former, I think with both coach and captain on their way into the realms of retirement they will really go for it!
For that reason, teamed with Poland’s unreliable nature, I’m going with Germany/Ukraine in the Dual Forecast Market @ 7/4 which is on Bet365.