The European Championships begin this Friday night and Will Burns provides a Group C preview and his recommendations for the best bets for the group.
GERMANY – UKRAINE – POLAND – NORTHERN IRELAND
12th June: Poland v Northern Ireland (17:00 BST)
12th June: Germany v Ukraine (20:00 BST)
16th June: Ukraine v Northern Ireland (17:00 BST)
16th June: Germany v Poland (20:00 BST)
21st June: Ukraine v Poland (17:00 BST)
21st June: Northern Ireland v Germany (17:00 BST)
GERMANY (1.85 at 888 Sport): Although, I feel Germany could possibly win the tournament after seeing some defensive fragilities in their last few friendlies, I am not sold on the idea that Poland could not sneak into the top position in Group B. Whoever wins the Poland-Germany match on June 16th will win the group and that is why I am personally not backing this one myself. I prefer a different option in the Germany/Poland Dual Forecast which seems a lot safer bet – see below.
Germany come into this tournament as second favourites behind the hosts France, as they do always seem to ‘turn-up’ for tournaments. In qualification, the German machine looked human. Losing 2-0 away to Group C opponents Poland, after being hit twice by their counter attacking prowess was worrying. In addition, earlier in the qualification a 1-0 defeat in Ireland then a 1-1 draw in the follow up fixture, shows that Joachim Low has a lot of work to do before being tipped to win the tournament.
Anyone thinking about backing Germany to win this group needs to remember that Poland was only one point from them in qualification and that was a total of ten games, not three.
TEAM TOP GOALSCORERS
GERMANY – THOMAS MULLER (2.62 at Betfair): When the big tournaments come around Thomas Muller is always around the top of the betting for tournament top scorer, and rightly so, and this time round it is no different. He travels to France behind his greatest season yet for Bayern, scoring 32 goals last term in all competitions.
With the creative outlets of Mario Gotze, Mezut Ozil, Andre Schurrle, Toni Kroos and Julian Draxler, he will be in good supply and starting every game on his own up front. In addition, Muller will be the German penalty-taker so if any of the creative forces fancy a spot of diving in the area, he should be good to convert them.
UKRAINE – ANDRIY YARMOLENKO (4.00 at Coral): The Ukrainian tactics are usually simple, defend deep, then counter attack with Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka flying down the wings. Other teams are now becoming aware of this and worryingly for Mykhaylo Fomenko, the Ukraine head coach, there is not many other options around in attack. Yarmolenko has scored six in ten in qualifying so I see him a solid bet at 3/1 from Coral.
POLAND – ROBERT LEWANDOWSKI (1.83 at Coral): Do I need to explain this one? Even though in my opinion, this man is the best striker in the world… well actually I feel I do need to explain this choice. Being a Dutch football writer, I watch many games from the Eredivisie every weekend and Lewandowski has a major contender here for this bet in Ajax striker Arkadiusz Milik (6/1 at Betfred).
Milik has been a revelation in Holland this past season scoring 21 goals in 31 outings for the Amsterdammers and against the likes of Ukraine and especially Northern Ireland, I see him very capable of adding to the six goals he scored in Euro 2016 qualification (including a goal in the 2-0 win over Germany).
Yes, the 22-year-old is a threat to this bet and if he could score a few goals then Robert Lewandowski could score six. The Bayern Munich star scored 13 goals in 10 qualifiers and see him continuing that extraordinary form in this tournament.
** The partnership between Lewandowski and Milik will be discussed further this week in my ‘Euro 2016 Recommendations’ article to be posted on Thursday.
NORTHERN IRELAND – NO GOALSCORER (8.00 at Sky Bet): Michael O’Neill’s team have a tough group here and three formidable opponents and I struggle to see if they could score any goals against Germany, Poland or the Ukraine. After an impressive qualifying campaign finishing top in a group where they were initially seeded fifth in the draw, one may question this bet, but you have to realise that this tournament will be a huge gulf in class. Scoring a goal could happen but at a handsome price 7/1, I have a theory that may bring this bet home.
Birmingham City winger Kyle Lafferty notched seven of the 16 team total in qualifying but he has hobbled out of training today and is being assessed to when he will be fit. The Northern Irish play Poland first, Ukraine second and then Germany third. The Germans, if already qualified may play a weakened side. But I see Poland pushing the Germans to the max. Low’s side will want to take top spot regardless to avoid France in the last 16, so this will not happen. However, even a Germany second XI should dispatch Northern Ireland easily and hold off any challenges of a goal.
NORTHERN IRELAND TO FINISH BOTTOM (1.57 at Boyle Sports): See above. A done deal for me. This bet is a must win.
GERMANY-POLAND DUAL FORECAST (2.25 at Ladbrokes): Germany have looked mediocre defensively since the international retirements of Philip Lahm and Per Metresacker. Jerome Boateng has created a central partnership with Borussia Dortmund’s Mat Hummels, with Roma’s Antonio Rudiger ready to step in. Apart from Boateng, the names above are far from intimidating. The full-back positions should be occupied by Benedikt Howedes (right) and Jonas Hector (left). I am sure you all agree these names are not sufficient replacements for the retired pair. Although, I think they will challenge for the trophy (they always do), I see the defensive worries as a possible reason not to top this group.
Although they have never ever won a European Championship match, Poland’s squad possesses the most talent in their history in my opinion. Lewandowski and Milik (mentioned above) are forming a great striking dynamic duo. Goalkeepers are decent options, Torino central defender Kamil Glik is coming off an impressive season in Serie A, Sevilla midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak has just led his side to their third Europa League trophy for the third consecutive year. Occupying the right-side of the pitch will be Dortmund duo, Lukasz Piszczek and Jakub Blasczykowski and on the left, Kamil Grosicki of French side Rennes will be a threat if his nine goals in Ligue 1 last season is anything to go by.
Poland Top Team Goalscorer – Robert Lewandowski (1.83 at Coral)
Northern Ireland – No Goalscorer (8.00 at Sky Bet)
Northern Ireland to finish bottom of Group C (1.57 at Boyle Sports)
Germany/Poland Dual Forecast (2.25 at Ladbrokes)