We arrive at Group C of the Euro 2016 finals; Poland v Northern Ireland gets the ball rolling on Sunday 12th June at 17.00 GMT broadcast live on BBC. Here is the list of teams that have been drawn from the 4 qualifying spots and into this group, as well as their FIFA World Ranking.
Based on their FIFA World Ranking, this group looks like Germany could be the runaway winners and it's hard to argue with that, however, the battle for the 2nd automatic qualifying place will be extremely interesting.
The current reigning World Champions, Germany have always performed much better in the finals of a tournament than the qualifiers and friendlies that are played before. They have a young, exciting team with experienced trophy winners sprinkled over the top, Germany are certainly going to be one of the big favourites to win this competition.How Did They Qualify and from Which Group?
Germany automatically qualified from Group D in 1st place and only lost 2 games, away at Poland and Republic of Ireland. They didn't score the most or concede the least but they still won 7 out of their 10 qualifying matches. Republic of Ireland actually claimed 4 points from them in their two games which does add weight to the fact that they struggle initially and turn up when it truly matters.Top Goalscorer in Qualifying
Germany's leading goal scorer in qualifying was none other than Thomas Muller. This man is actually our tip to win the Golden Boot at the finals and has been magnificent for Germany in every tournament that Low has presided over. Watch this space, this lad is going to make headlines and score goals.Style of Play and Manager
Germany are like a well-oiled machine, very efficient in possession and very lethal with their shot accuracy. They have a perfect blend of youth and experience and keep possession of the ball extremely well. They're the current World Champions for a reason and will look to dominate whoever they come up against in the finals.
Joachim Low has been the manager of Germany for a decade now after taking over from Jurgen Klinsmann after the World Cup in 2006 and he has never been eliminated from a major International tournament before the semi-final stage, he is a very shrewd customer and will attempt to tactically outwit his opponents in each game. He does like a trendy scarf or two as well!Record in Previous European Championships
As Germany and previously West Germany (1960 - 1990), the national team has been dominant in previous European Championships. They have won the tournament 3 times and finished runners up another 3 times. Germany are winners and have proven this time and time again, their grassroots football development is phenomenal.Group Final Standing Prediction : 1st
Unless there is a massive shock on the cards, this should be an open and shut case. Germany always do well and are the reigning World Champions, this group should be light work for them. It would probably be a safe bet on them to win every game in this group and sail through to the knockout stages.
What a story this has been for Michael O'Neill and his group of players. Qualifying for their first ever European Championships and doing it in some style. I don't think Northern Irish fans will be too upset if I say that the last 20 years have been shocking for them and they were not really competing in the world of international football. Could the dream continue?How did they Qualify and from which Group?
Well, well, well! Northern Ireland qualified top of Group F, 1 point ahead of second placed Romania. This group on the face of it did not seem particularly difficult with Hungary, Finland, Faroe Islands and Greece however, 10 years ago Northern Ireland would not have had a chance in hell of getting out of that group and it is testament to the work Michael O'Neill has put in.Top Goalscorer in Qualifying
Kyle Lafferty scored 7 goals in 9 games for Northern Ireland in the qualifiers and he can't even get a game for his club! If Northern Ireland are going to make it anywhere in the Euro 2016 Championships then Lafferty will have to continue that form.Style of Play and Manager
Northern Ireland have managed to perfect a style that works, using skilful, fast wing play and counter attacking at its finest. They have a relatively older team with young players dotted around to create a good team ethic. Northern Ireland have gotten as far as they have playing as a unit and will be hard to break down in these finals.
Michael O'Neill took over in December 2011 and has transformed them from whipping boys to a great, close knit team that are hard to beat and he deserves credit for that.Record in Previous European Championships
Northern Ireland have never qualified for the European Championships but have played in 3 World Cups, reaching the Quarter-finals in 1958, however, the last time they qualified for a major tournament was in 1986 so it will be new territory for O'Neill and his players.Group Final Standing Prediction : 4th
I'm sorry Northern Irish fans but we think the fairy-tale will end here quite abruptly. In the qualifiers, Northern Ireland didn't register a victory home or away against Romania and we were not very complementary about them in a previous article. Ukraine, Germany and Poland will be too much for them I fear.
The poles have a very good team this year and that showed in qualifying. Armed with one of the most lethal strikers in the world right now in Robert Lewandowski and in the prime of his career, they haven't had a better chance to cause some serious trouble in this competition.How did they Qualify and from Which Group?
Poland, weirdly enough, were in the same qualifying group as Germany too. They finished in the 2nd automatic qualifying position in Group D; beating 3rd placed Republic of Ireland by 3 points. Poland did actually beat Germany 2-0 at home and will carry that psychological advantage into the finals, could an upset be on the cards?Top Goalscorer in Qualifying
Everybody knows this man; it is of course Bayern Munich striker Robert Lewandowski. He scored 13 goals in just 10 qualifying matches - that is astounding. Defenders are going to be having nightmares about this guy and it's no wonder, he seems to have struck up a brilliant partnership with 22 year old striker Milik of Ajax too.Style of Play and Manager
Poland tend to have a very strong centre midfielder partnership in Krzysztof Maczynski and Grzegorz Krychowiak (a former Arsenal target), add to that a lot of pace on the flanks from Piszczek and captain Jakob Blaszczykowski and the goal scoring threat of Milik (6 goals 6 assists in qualifying) and Lewandowski (13 goals 1 assist), you can see why Poland can cause some teams a lot of problems.
Poland are managed by former international Adam Nawalka who took over in 2013 and had spent his whole managerial career in the Polish league, with 3 separate stints as Wisla Krakow boss.Record in Previous European Championships
Poland have only ever qualified for the Euros twice before and both times failed to get out of the group stages so they will hope that this is the year they can improve on it.Group Final Standing Prediction : 2nd
This was such a close call between the Poles and Ukraine but we just had to go for Poland. With the pace and the strike force that they have, as well as 2 decent goalkeepers in Fabianski and Szczesny, they will just scrape through past Ukraine and behind Germany in our humble opinion.
Ukraine are yet another former Soviet state that have qualified for the Euros this year and they are a great team to watch these days. Gone are the days of being a 1 man team behind Andrei Shevchenko, they have a much well rounded squad now and will be hoping they can sneak into the 2nd qualifying place behind Germany.How did they Qualify and from Which Group?
It took a playoff aggregate victory over Slovenia for Ukraine to guarantee their European Championship place after finishing third in Group C behind Spain and Slovakia. Astoundingly, Ukraine only conceded 4 goals in the whole of qualifying but drew a few too many games and let Slovakia into that automatic qualification place.Top Goalscorer in Qualifying
Andriy Yarmolenko scored 6 times for Ukraine during the qualifiers and is Ukraine's second all-time goal scorer behind the big man Shevchenko. He will be a constant threat for Ukraine in the finals and the left sided centre back and left back of their opposition will need to work together to nullify him or it could be a long 90 minutes for them.Style of Play and Manager
Ukraine are obviously very solid defensively which was proven during qualification however they do have some exciting players at their disposal, especially their wingers. Konoplyanka and Yarmolenko are both wingers who like to cut inside onto their favoured left and right foot respectively and are not afraid to shoot from all angles and distances. They both single-handedly destroyed England in a friendly a couple of years ago and epitomise everything that makes Ukraine an attacking force.
Ukraine are managed by Mykhailo Fomenko who played for the USSR 24 times in the mid 70s and has managed a lot of teams in the Ukrainian Premier League such as Dynamo Kiev and Metalist. He has managed the national team since 2012.Record in Previous European Championships
Ukraine were first eligible to qualify for a European Championship as an independent country from the Soviet Union in 1996, however, they did not make it to the Euros until 2012 and did not get out of the group stages.Group Final Standing Prediction : 3rd
This was a very very close call between Ukraine and Poland for 2nd place but I just think even though Ukraine are defensively sound, Poland's strike force will just have too much for them but we definitely think they will both beat Northern Ireland and it will all depend on the result when they play each other.
The winner of this group will play the 'Best Loser' from Group A, B or F which you would expect Germany to come through. We think Germany should be looking to win this thing or get at least to the semi-finals again.
If Poland do gain 2nd place, they will play the runner up in Group A, who we predicted would be Switzerland and we would expect them to have a great chance of getting into the quarter-finals.