Ahead of any global tournament, Germany is sure to be classified as one of the title favourites. Euro 2016 is no exception and the skills of this talented German side will be on display when they open their campaign against Ukraine. This Group C encounter will be played at Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille on Sunday, June 12.
Notwithstanding their recent global supremacy, the recent performances from Germany aren’t worthy of World Champions. They have struggled to assert themselves after their triumph in Brazil and have barely managed to pip Poland to the top spot in the qualifying campaign. And that included managing just one point across two matches against Republic of Ireland.
Their form didn’t improve in the friendlies either with a string of unspectacular and indifferent performances questioning their title credentials. But Joachim Low’s team knows how to turn up in major tournaments, which should ease the concerns of their supporters. Somewhere beneath that optimism though, lies a concern on the fitness of key players.
The retirement of Phillip Lahm is a major blow as is the fitness of captain Bastian Schweinsteiger. Losing Ilkay Gundogan and Marco Reus to injuries even before the tournament started is a setback too but the quality at Low’s disposal is strong enough to mask those concerns.
Ukraine aren’t a rollover opponent by any means although they lack in quality compared to their opponents. They had to resort to a play-off win over Slovenia to book their flight to France. But take nothing away from the squad that could trouble a few with their pace on wings and counter-attacks.
Their preparation for the Euros has been perfect with wins in their last four encounters that included a solitary goal victory against Wales. Their solidity at the back is a major bonus and the team would hope to build on their recent performances in friendlies. With no one giving them a chance, Ukraine could use anonymity to their advantage and surprise the Germans. The unusual vulnerability of the Germans at the back should definitely be a chance for Ukraine to exploit the soft underbelly of their opponents.
Germany had an unusually mellowed run-in to the Euros losing four of their last ten encounters that included a qualifying loss to Republic of Ireland. Even the friendly victory over Hungary was unspectacular and quite unlike Germany. Their performance at the back is a concern too with the team keeping just one clean sheet in their last nine matches.
Ukraine had a satisfying run in their last ten encounters losing just once during that time. They have been consistent scorers too with goals in each of their previous six matches. Having netted seven goals in their last two matches, Ukraine should be quietly confident ahead of this big showdown.
Key players and team news
Low will not have Schweinsteiger at his disposal but with Sami Khedira and Toni Kroos marshalling the midfield, he should have no concerns. The presence of playmakers Mesut Ozil, Julian Draxler and Mario Gotze should provide enough attacking balls in the final third for the likes of Thomas Muller and Mario Gomez to feast on. Watch out for Muller whose goals could turn out to be Germany’s savior in France.
Ukraine will rely heavily on their wingers – Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka. Their solid defence would be put to test by the German attackers but it is the lack of striking options that could come back to hurt them.
Irrespective of their poor buildup to the tournament, Germany is one team that can never be written off in major tournaments. The array of attacking talents that Low has brought to France should make them favourites – on paper at least – for this encounter. Muller relishes the big stage and expect him to be on the score sheet for the Germans.
Ukraine come into the match on the back of some scintillating scoring form, although there are question marks on their own defence. There definitely are goals from this side but they could leak quite a few.
Germany look vulnerable at the back – not something you generally associate with a German side. The presence of Manuel Neur in the goal is a comfort but he may struggle to keep a clean sheet. Same goes for Ukraine and it could well turn out in favour of the Germans.
Thomas Muller to score anytime at odds of 2.1 with Betfred.