Group C - Germany's GroupOn paper this looks like the easiest group for the seeded team to win. Germany are the World Champions and 2nd in Europe, according to the FIFA rankings. The three teams they have been drawn against are all pretty inexperienced in finals tournaments and none of them are ranked higher than 13th in Europe. The bookies make Germany 2nd favourites to win the tournament (@ 4.5) whereas Poland, the next best bet according to the bookies, are 50-1. Ukraine are 100-1 and Northern Ireland 350-1.
Poland - the best bet for an upset?Of the three teams, Poland at least have some grounds for optimism against Germany. They qualified for the finals from the same group as them and managed to actually beat them 2-0 at home early in the campaign, shaking Germany out of their post World Cup winning hangover and for a few months it looked like Poland might actually win the group.
One suspects that the usual German knack of winning major tournaments will have already kicked in by the time Germany start their campaign against Ukraine in Lille on 12th June. Their second match is against Poland and they end up with the surprise package in the group, Northern Ireland.
It's a Cracker!Shame Frank Carson isn't around to see it.
Northern Ireland's qualification was perhaps the most impressive performance of all the teams that will be in France. They are another team that are at their highest FIFA ranking ever, currently at 24th in the World, when their average has been 76th.
Few gave them much chance of qualifying for the finals when the qualifying groups were drawn, as their group including Romania, Hungary and Greece. It seemed a tough group even with the possibility of the 3rd place play off place up for grabs. Nobody thought they'd actually win the group, but they did.
So, maybe there are more surprises in store for us from the boys from Ulster. I have a ticket for their 2nd group game against Ukraine so hopefully we'll see some of that spirit then.
Ukraine themselves qualified by the 3rd place play off route, beating Slovenia - the team that finished 3rd in England's qualifying group.
If all goes to form, one has to suspect that Germany will win the group comfortably with Poland, probably, finishing 2nd and Ukraine 3rd.
This should set Germany up for a relatively comfortable round of 16 game in Lille against a 3rd place team - possibly Russia or Wales, Romania or Hungary. Their quarter final should be tougher - perhaps against Italy in Bordeaux.
Poland though, will have also high expectations of reaching the quarter finals. Runners-up in Group C play the runners-up in Group A. So watch out for Poland v Switzerland in St Etienne. Actually any team in this group can therefore realistically have hopes of reaching the quarter finals this way. However whichever teams come 2nd in group A and C will then be forced to play one of the top teams, probably Spain, in Marseille.
Sunday, 29th May 2016