Simon Hill has long been an avid critic of the VAR’s introduction into football. While I regard Hill as one of the best football commentators and pundits in this country, this has always been the one thing I’ve strongly disagreed with him on.
As with Group B’s England versus Wales fixture, Group C hosts its own pivotal battle between neighbouring nations.
The fixture between Germany and Poland in Paris is one football lovers will have marked as one of the must see matches of the tournament, but how will it affect which teams progress to the next round?
The Poles will play German for the third time since the tournament qualifiers began as the neighbouring countries were also in the same qualifying group. Poland and Germany split wins during the qualifiers with six goals scored over the two matches.
Poland will be lead by Bayern Munich superstar striker Robert Lewandowski, but are far from a one-man team. Defender Kamil Glik is coming off a standout year as captain of Serie A side Torino, and the squad also features dangerous Sevilla midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak.
While a victory against Germany is not out of the question it is Poland match against Ukraine that should ultimately decide who finishes second to the Germans in Group C.
Group Stage Prediction: second
The reigning world champions enter Euro 2016 as favourites as they look to complete the World Cup and European Championship double.
Since their triumph in Brazil in 2014 the German national team has lost stalwarts of the team in the form of the retirements of Philip Lahm, Miroslav Klose and others, but this has also enabled younger players like Julian Draxler, Emre Can, Kevin Volland and others to represent the national side giving Joachim Low plenty of options.
The Germans lack a top class striker, but Bayern Munich’s Thomas Muller has proven in the past that he is more than capable of leading the line for his country.
Germany are the current world champions and the best international side coming into the tournament so anything less than an appearance in the final will be viewed as a failure. They lost to group stage opponents Poland in qualifying, but at the big show expect them to make it out of Group C unscathed.
Group Stage Prediction: First
Ukraine qualified for Euro 2016 after edging out Slovenia in a home-and-away playoff series after finishing third in qualifying Group C.
During the qualifiers they failed to score against Spain and Slovakia who were the two sides to finish above them, but they did create plenty of chances at goal and possess a reliable defence that conceded only five goals in all twelve games of qualifying. Ukraine’s main weapons will be wingers Yevhen Konoplyanka (Sevilla) and Andriy Yarmolenko (Dynamo Kiev)who will be a threat to any side at Euro 2016.
Ukraine will be looking to their match against Poland as the make or break fixture in terms of qualifying for the knockout stages.
Group Stage Prediction: Third
By topping qualifying Group F Northern Ireland became the lowest ranked group winner in tournament qualifying history. Whether or not you put that down to an incredibly weak group where the toughest opponents were Romania and Hungary, it is still an incredible achievement for a country that has the smallest pool of professional footballers to choose from out of the twenty-four sides at Euro 2016.
Northern Ireland features some quality in the form of defender Jonny Evans and target man Kyle Lafferty, but it is their team spirit and pride that will be the side’s best attribute.
Qualifying for Euro 2016 was a once in a generation feat that Northern Ireland should celebrate and enjoy, but the group stage is where the journey ends.
Group Stage Prediction: Fourth