Northern Ireland are all set to take on World Champions Germany in the final Euro 2016 Group D match at the Parc des Princes in Paris on Tuesday evening.
Touted as the underdogs of this tournament, Northern Ireland deservedly won against Ukraine 2-0, and put in a brilliant team performance. The third spot is guaranteed for them in Group C, and they are also eyeing the possible knockout qualification in their first ever UEFA European Football Championship. From what they proved in their previous games, Germany should not take them lightly as the team is totally capable of having a trick or two up their sleeves.
Germany’s last game ended in a goal-less draw against Poland. Although they took an incredible number of 16 shots at goal, only three found the target. The game against Poland was well-rounded, however, the German attack remains an issue ahead of the crucial tie against Northern Ireland. One point to be noted is that the Germans were also running pretty inconsistent in pre-tournament friendlies and maybe the team isn’t as strong as they were during their stint at the World Cup.
Michael O’Neil made five changes to the squad that lost 1-0 to Poland in their opening group match. There were some major decisions that proved correct as Connor Washington, who came in for Kyle Lafferty, was a constant menace to Ukraine defenders alongside Jamie Ward. He is expected to field the same starting line-up in the final group game against Germany.
Mario Gotze could be dropped to the bench following his lacklustre performance against Poland and Low could opt for an out and out striker in Mario Gomez. The place of Julian Draxler on the left wing is also under threat, with Andre Schurrle and Leroy Sane being viable replacements.
• This will be first meeting between the sides in 11 years, since Germany beat Northern Ireland in a friendly at the Windsor Park in Belfast on June 2005.
• Germany have never lost in the last 7 matches against Northern Ireland, with 4 wins and 3 draws.
• Also, Germany had won in each of the last 4 meetings with Northern Ireland, with a goal aggregate of 18-2.
Northern Ireland – Jamie Ward
Jamie Ward made the most of a start for Northern Ireland by playing a key role in their big win at Euro 2016. Ward created two goalscoring chances, a figure matched by three but not bettered by any Northern Ireland player, while his one shot at goal landed off target. He caused Ukraine problems on the wing, winning five free-kicks, while he made two interceptions and picked up a booking as he sought to also contribute defensively. His game is all about working hard and not giving people time on the ball. That might be different to what Germany have experienced before.
Germany – Thomas Muller
Despite having earned 71 caps and scored 32 goals for Germany, Muller, who floats around the attack with seemingly no fixed position, is still only 26 and is a shoe-in for club or country. Perhaps the greatest testament to Muller’s talent is that in a squad of superstars at Bayern, he is known as Mr. Dependable and he always plays anytime he is fit. One of his trademark performances came through after the German’s hat-trick in the 4-0 win over Portugal, in the World Cup where he played as a False Nine. Now in France, Mueller once again looks set to be his country’s key man.
Despite Northern Ireland’s dominance in their last game, the Germans are a force to be reckoned with. The most likely outcome will be a 2-1 victory for Germany.