Group C is an intriguing one, featuring Germany, a side many expect to go far in the competition. The World Cup holders will be eager to add the European Championships to their impressive trophy haul, but they have lost some key experienced players since Brazil, so they are not the same side that lifted the game’s most coveted prize. The majority of the players are still available though and they will be expecting to reach the semi-finals at a minimum. In Group C, they will be up against Ukraine and Northern Ireland, but perhaps the biggest fixture of the group will come against rivals Poland.
Germany don’t have a great number of Premier League players in their squad, but Mesut Ozil is likely to be a key man in their attack. The Arsenal player recorded incredible creative stats this season, getting 19 assists and creating 144 chances in the Premier League. He will be vital to their chances of winning the tournament. They also have Bastian Schweinsteiger and Emre Can in the squad, who could both play a role at some stage for the World champions. It will be interesting to see whether they field Thomas Muller as their centre-forward, or if he plays a deeper role behind Mario Gomez.
Their first opponents are Ukraine, who will be a dangerous side in this group and could be a threat to the Germans on the counter-attack. Yevhen Konoplyanka and Andriy Yarmolenko are well known for their pace and skill on the break. They have the ability to create something out of nothing, and will be the ones to watch, especially given Germany’s lack of experience and quality at full-back. They have a lot of experience throughout the squad and will be confident of their chances of qualifying for the last sixteen.
They’ve only met once in the last 15 years and that was an international friendly in 2011. The sides played out an entertaining 3-3 draw in Kyiv. For Ukraine, the goals were scored by Andriy Yarmolenko, Yevhen Konoplyanka and Serhiy Nazarenko. Meanwhile for the visitors, Toni Kroos, Simon Rolfes and Thomas Muller found the back of the net.
The German is the favourite for the Golden Boot, and it is easy to see why. He has been the standout performer in this impressive Germany side, and he has a lot of attacking qualities. He has 32 goals in 71 caps for his nation, with a lot of those coming at international tournaments. For Bayern Munich, he scored 20 goals in the league this season showing that he is coming into this tournament in great form. It will be interesting to see how he is used by Germany, with a role in attacking midfield looking likely, with either Mario Gotze as a false nine or Mario Gomez being deployed as the central striker. Muller thrives in this role as he can roam, and find pockets of space in the final third. He is excellent at finishing, and there aren’t many better at timing their movement when attacking. He scored in the German’s final warm up game, and he will want to carry that form into the tournament. Muller can score all sorts of goals and that is why he is so dangerous and why he is one of the best players at this tournament.
He is one of the flying wingers in the Ukraine squad and will see this tournament as an opportunity to put himself in the shop window. He is still playing in his native country, but at the age of 26, he needs to leave in the next 12 months, or he may never get to test himself at a higher level. Yarmolenko’s record for his national side is excellent, scoring 25 goals in 59 caps, showing that he can perform at the highest level. He scored twice in this season’s Champions League, and will surely be wanting to play in a bigger league next season. He is a goal threat from the wing, while he is also good in the ball, and can link the play up well in the final third. He will be keen to impress against the World champions, and will thrive on the counter-attack.
Mats Hummels is a doubt with a small knock, and could sit out this opening fixture as a precaution. Joshua Kimmich and Shkodran Mustafi are contenders to fill in for the centre-half. The other interesting selection dilemma will be if they choose to play Mario Gomez as their striker, or opt for Mario Gotze as a false nine.
Oleh Husyev and Artem Kravets are both lacking match fitness, and may not be available to start the opening match. Roman Zozulya is set to lead the line and provide the focal point for a side containing two of the most dangerous wingers in the competition.
Germany haven’t been as formidable in recent months, with friendly defeats to England and Slovakia being notable poor moments. However, they are the World champions and their players have historically come alive at international tournaments. This is a winnable match, but Ukraine possess two great wingers and that is the area of the pitch where Germany are weakest defensively. Also, if Hummels misses out then the defence will lose organisation and could be liable to concede. I expect Germany to win this game, but they won’t keep a clean sheet and Ukraine will put in a performance that will worry Poland and Northern Ireland.
Prediction: Germany 2-1 Ukraine