EURO 2916 TORI – SOCCER PAROLE EURO 2016 GROUP C TEAMS PREVIEW
Bigger than ever, the European Championship kicks off in Paris on the 10th of June with a four-week feast of football that promises to elevate the game above the corruption scandals and security fears that have overshadowed its build-up.
INJURY-HIT GERMANY MUST REDISCOVER TOURNAMENT FORM
The German side setting their sights on Euro 2016, 20 years after their last continental trophy, may be completely different from the one that won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.
Although coach Joachim Loew has kept a core of the players who won the country’s fourth World Cup, he will need to mould them back into a tournament team if they are to knock holders Spain off the champions’ pedestal after eight years.
The manager’s biggest headache is his back line where the qualifiers exposed an alarming lack of consistency. Germany conceded five goals in their last four games and left it unexpectedly late to top their group.
NORTHERN IRELAND LOOK TO THEIR HISTORY MEN
It has been so long since Northern Ireland appeared at the finals of a major tournament that fewer than a handful of Michael O’Neill’s squad for the European Championship had been born when the country last graced the game’s greatest stages.
While the cherished memories of days gone by remain strong, manager Michael O’Neill and his team have been busy making history of their own over the last two years.
Qualification for the Euros, achieved as winners of their qualifying group, is not only the country’s first appearance at a major event in 30 years, it is also the first time Northern Ireland have ever booked a berth at the continental championship.
Along the way, O’Neill has steered the team on a run of 10 consecutive games without defeat, a record achieved with a 1-0 win over Slovenia at the end of March, which surpasses those achieved by teams under Bingham’s command.
BONIEK REVELS IN POLAND’S UNDERDOG STATUS
If Poland are to progress beyond the group stages at the European Championship for the first time, their top strikers Robert Lewandowski and Arkadiusz Milik must provide the inspiration so obviously lacking when they crashed out of Euro 2012, the tournament they co-hosted with Ukraine.
On that occasion they finished bottom of their group and now, as the lowest-ranked team in Euro 2016 Group C, they will have to be at their best to make it through a pool clouded by clashes against traditional rivals Germany and Ukraine.
Poland FA chief Zbigniew Boniek, one of the country’s greatest players, revels in the underdog status that does not altogether equate with a team who impressed in qualifying for what will be their third straight European Championship finals.
DISHARMONY THREATENS TO DISRUPT UKRAINE’S CAMPAIGN
As if Ukraine was not beset with enough problems off the pitch, an unseemly row between two high-profile players is threatening to disrupt the country’s Euro 2016 campaign.
Taras Stepanenko recently announced that his friendship with Ukraine team mate Andriy Yarmolenko was over after the pair were involved in a spat during a league game this month.
Ukraine manager Mykhaylo Fomenko has said the issues need to be sorted out and there are fears about the knock-on effect for the team who already face a tough Group C challenge against Germany, Northern Ireland and Poland, their co-hosts for Euro 2016 with whom they were also drawn in the 2014 World Cup qualifying group.
The coach is under pressure to adopt a less conservative approach and will have Ukrainian hero Andriy Shevchenko, who is touted as a possible successor, alongside him on the bench.