Group C Preview – EURO 2016

EURO 2016 is just 4 weeks away. This week I preview Group C which contains some very strong teams.

The teams contesting Group C
The teams contesting Group C

GERMANY 

Germany

In France, Germany will not only be defending their status as world champions,but also their magnificent record at the European Championship. They have been champions and runners-up on three occasions and reached the semi-finals twice. Germany’s last European title came twenty years ago at EURO 1996. Germany came into the qualifying campaign as World Cup champions but didn’t let that distract them from the task at hand. They were far from perfect in their qualifying campaign losing to both Poland and Ireland but other results favoured the Germans who came out on top in a challenging group. Coach Joachim Low faced a challenge in qualifying with many experienced players retiring after the World Cup triumph. However Low found players to step in and take on the role of leading the team. Center-backs Jerome Boateng and Mats Hummels were rocks in front of Bayern Munich’s Manuel Neuer. In the midfield players such as Arsenal’s Mesut Ozil and Real Madrid’s Toni Kroos created plenty of chances for the attacking partnership of Mario Gotze and Thomas Muller. Muller was Germany’s leading scorer with 9 goals in qualifying and looks certain to be as dangerous as ever come June.

Muller

The Coach – Joachim Low

Joachim ‘ Jogi’ Low was Jurgen Klinsmann’s assistant coach when Germany finished third at the 2006 World Cup before he went on to succeed him as coach. Low had managed sides such as Stuttgart,Fenerbache, Adanaspor and Austria Wein before moving into the national team setup. He used a blend of power and technique to guide Germany to the final of EURO 2008 only to be defeated by Spain. Two years later Low introduced talented youngsters such as Mesut Ozil, Thomas Mueller and Mario Gotze as Germany reached the semi-finals of the World Cup. He led them to the semi-finals of EURO 2012 losing to Italy. Low’s luck finally arrived in 2014 when Mario Gotze’s extra time strike secured World Cup glory.

Germany at the EURO Finals:

  • 1960*- Did not enter
  • 1964*- Did not enter
  • 1968*- Did not qualify
  • 1972*- Winners
  • 1976*- Runners-up
  • 1980*-Winners
  • 1984*- Group stage
  • 1988*-Semi-final
  • 1992- Runners-up
  • 1996- Winners
  • 2000- Group stage
  • 2004- Quarter-finals
  • 2008- Runners-up
  • 2012 – Semi-final

*  As West Germany

POLAND

Poland

Poland will be keen to improve on their record at the EURO Finals having only qualified twice and failing on both occasions to make it beyond the group stage. Poland were in the same qualifying group as Germany and were able to fend off Ireland and Scotland to secure second place in the group. Robert Lewandowski as been crucial to Poland’s success but the Poles are by no means a one man team. The goalkeeping position has been contested by Roma’s Wojciech Szczesny, Lukasz Fabianski of Swansea and Bournemouth’s Artur Boruc. Defender Lukas Pisczek provided plenty of cover for who ever was between the sticks behind a midfield featuring versatile players such as Maciej Rybus and Grzegorz Krychowiak while Ajax’s Arkadiusz Milik provided support to Lewandowski. Lewandowski was the leading goal-scorer in the entire qualifying campaign with 13 goals, Milik contributed six and Kamil Grosicki four. Poland are a well drilled side that will be a formidable opponent for any team.

lewa

The Coac- Adam Nawalka

Adam

Adam Nawalka was a member of the Polish side that reached the last sixteen of the 1978 World Cup. He spent his entire career with Wisla Krakow where he went on to begin his managerial career. Poland’s failure to qualify for the 2014 World Cup saw him succeed Waldemar Fornalik. When appointed Nawalka had now won a title as a coach. However he showed his ability as a manager when he masterminded Poland’s qualifying win over Germany beating the World Champions 2-0

Poland at the EURO Finals:

  • 1960- Did not qualify
  • 1964- Did not qualify
  • 1968- Did not qualify
  • 1972- Did not qualify
  • 1976- Did not qualify
  • 1980- Did not qualify
  • 1984- Did not qualify
  • 1988- Did not qualify
  • 1992- Did not qualify
  • 1996- Did not qualify
  • 2000- Did not qualify
  • 2004- Did not qualify
  • 2008- Group stage
  • 2012- Group stage

UKRAINE

Ukraine

Ukraine ended their play-off jinx by reaching EURO 2016. Andriy Yarmolenko, their top scorer in qualifying, struck twice in their play-off victory over Slovenia and will carry the weigh of expectation on Ukraine’s second appearance at the competition. Most of the Ukrainian side plays in the domestic league with the exceptions of  veteran captain and anchor man Anatoliy Tymoshcuk who plies his trade in Kazakhstan and winger Yevhen Konoplyanaka who plays for Sevilla in Spain. Konoplyanak is undoubtedly the brightest star in this side however he does have an experienced supporting cast. In defence they have Shakhtar goalkeeper Andryi Pyativ and his club-mates Vyacheslav Shevchuk, Oleksandr Kucher and Yaroslav Rakitskyi. A versatility to defend and counter attack are the hallmarks of a midfield in which Tymoshcuk and Konoplyanka are supported by  Dynamo Kiev’s Oleh Husyev and Andriy Yamolenko. Defensively Ukraine were one of the best in qualifying conceding just four goals but going forward they produced just 14 goals in ten games.

TYMO

The Coach – Mykhailo Fomenko

Mykhailo

Mykhailo Fomenko was a key member of the outstanding Dynamo Kyiv team that saw success  in the 1970’s winning the UEFA Cup Winners Cup and the UEFA Super Cup. He won 24 caps for the Soviet national team and after his retirement in 1980 he joined the coaching staff of Kyiv. From Kyiv he moved between more than a dozen appointments including Iraq and Guinea before being handed the Ukraine job in December 2012 succeeding Oleh Blokhin. Ukraine narrowly missed out on a place at the 2014 World Cup losing a play-off against France but made no mistake in seeing off Slovenia to book their spot in France.

Ukraine at the EURO Finals:

  • 1960- Did not exist
  • 1964- Did not exist
  • 1968- Did not exist
  • 1972- Did not exist
  • 1976- Did not exist
  • 1980- Did not exist
  • 1984- Did not exist
  • 1988- Did not exist
  • 1992- Did not exist
  • 1996- Did not qualify
  • 2000- Did not qualify
  • 2004- Did not qualify
  • 2008- Did not qualify
  • 2012- Group stage

NORTHERN IRELAND

Northern Ireland

As a player, Michael O’Neill made 31 international appearances for Northern Ireland but it is as the country’s manager that he has achieved an outstanding feat. Northern Ireland’s appearance at EURO 2016 will be the first time they have rubbed shoulders with football’s elite since the 1986 World Cup. The size of Northern Ireland’s achievement can be seen in the fact the side leans heavily on lower league footballers with only a handful of Premier League players in the squad. Chief among them are West Brom defenders Jonny Evans and Garteh Brunt and their midfielder Chris Brunt – a key figure in the qualifying campaign that will miss the tournament through injury. Skipper Steven Davis has impressed at Southampton while Norwich’s Kyle Lafferty leads the line. Lafferty is the nations second all time leading goal scorer with 16 goals. Northern Ireland did not merely qualify for France they topped their group one point ahead of Romania. Laferty bagged seven goals in the qualifying campaign as the northerners lost just one game en route to France.

Steven Davis

The Coach – Michael O’Neill

Michael O’Neill applied all his football know-how he had gained in practically every corner of British and Irish football to bring Northern Ireland to this summer’s EUROs. O’Neill played club football in England,Scotland and America while winning 31 national team caps. After working briefly in financial services he began his managerial career with League of Ireland side Shamrock Rovers. In the 2011-2012 season his Rovers side became the first League of Ireland club to reach the group stages of a European competition. He became Northern Ireland manager in December 2011 succeeding Nigel Worthington.

Northern Ireland at the EURO finals:

  • 1960- Did not enter
  • 1964- Did not qualify
  • 1968- Did not qualify
  • 1972- Did not qualify
  • 1976- Did not qualify
  • 1980- Did not qualify
  • 1984- Did not qualify
  • 1988- Did not qualify
  • 1992- Did not qualify
  • 1996- Did not qualify
  • 2000- Did not qualify
  • 2004- Did not qualify
  • 2008- Did not qualify
  • 2012- Did not qualify

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