News, views, and a quick form guide

June 10th. The Euros begin today, kicking off with host nation France taking on one of the many tournament dark horses (oh how we love that term!) Romania. Two days from now, Germany kick off their own campaign with another dark horse encounter when they take on Ukraine in the northern city of Lille.

Having moved to their training centre at Évian-les-Bains close to the Swiss border, the German team are upping their preparation – with the usual dose of injury problems. The story is reading much the same as two years ago: just days after the squad was announced, centre-back Antonio Rüdiger was ruled out after injuring himself in training.

With Mats Hummels not being fully fit, the improving Rüdiger was looking at a possible start alongside Jérôme Boateng against the Ukrainians – but now Nationaltrainer Jogi Löw has to start tinkering around again. Rüdiger’s replacement is Bayer Leverkusen’s Jonathan Tah – a man with just one international cap to his name.

Following the draw last year I compiled an overview of Germany’s three opponents; now is the time to look at what they have been doing recently, along with a general form guide. Not that the warm-up games mean much, of course.

Ukraine (12.06.2016, Lille)

UkraineMykhaylo Fomenko’s team come into the tournament off the back of two good wins against fellow tournament finalists, both on neutral ground in Italy.

Four goals in sixteen minutes either side of half-time against Romania in Turin proved to be enough as they saw off a dramatic comeback by their opponents to seal an exciting 4-3 win at the end of May, and just under a week later in Bergamo the Yellow-Blues came from behind to beat Albania 3-1. Seven goals in two matches – not a bad return for a team often dismissed as dour and overly defensive.

With these seven goals being scored by five different players, Ukraine are clearly not all about top marksmen Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka – both of whom bagged two goals apiece.

The Ukrainians haven’t actually been beaten since October last year, when they suffered a 1-0 home defeat by Spain during their Euro qualifying campaign. Following that narrow defeat, they have won five of their six matches with the other being a 1-1 draw in the second leg of their Euros playoff against Slovenia in Ljubljana.

Last eight matches, most recent first: WWWWDWLW

Poland (16.06.2016, St. Denis)

PolandFollowing the recent qualifying campaign, we all know about Poland. In contrast to Ukraine however, the Poles’ approach to the finals in France has not been great, with their two early June friendlies producing a 2-1 defeat to the Netherlands and a goalless draw against Lithuania – neither of which will in the mix this summer.

A goalless draw against the Lithuanians in Kraków has to be seen as disappointing, even without talismanic goalscorer Robert Lewandowski, but the 2-1 loss against the Dutch in Gdańsk with what was close to a full-strength squad was perhaps bigger setback and indicator of current form.

Before the defeat against the Dutch, Adam Nawałka’s team had gone seven games unbeaten – a run stretching back to their 3-1 defeat at the hands of the Mannschaft in Frankfurt.

Last eight matches, most recent first: DLWWWWWD

Northern Ireland (21.06.2016, Paris)

Northern IrelandSurprisingly, the group’s least-favoured team comes into the tournament on the back of the longest unbeaten run of any of the twenty-four finalists – a sequence stretches back over a year and a 2-0 defeat in Romania during the Euro qualifiers – their only defeat of the campaign.

The first of Norn Iron’s two pre-tournament warm-up matches saw a comprehensive 3-0 defeat of Belarus in Belfast, with top scorer Kyle Lafferty netting the opening goal. Then there was another clean-sheet against Slovakia in Trnava, just days after the Slovaks had inflicted a 3-1 defeat on Germany in a soggy Augsburg.

Michael O’Neill’s team may not have the greatest pedigree of Germany’s three group opponents, but they more than make up for this with a defiant team spirit. No team can go unbeaten for so long without doing something right.

Last eight matches, most recent first: DWWDWDWD

How are the Mannschaft doing?

Compared to the teams they will be facing in France, Germany’s record coming into the tournament has been pretty poor – in fact, this is arguably the Mannschaft’s poorest sequence of results leading into a major tournament for a long time. In their last eight matches, Löw’s men have suffered no fewer than four defeats at the hands of Slovakia, England, France and the Republic of Ireland.

Since the World Cup final in July 2014 Germany have played nineteen matches – winning ten, drawing two and losing a staggering seven. To draw a comparison, Löw’s side suffered fewer defeats during the coach’s first four seasons in charge.

Of course, when the world’s best tournament team arrives at a major tournament, the form book can usually be thrown out of the window. I have the book in my hand, and the window is open… Let the show begin!

Germany’s last eight matches, most recent first: WLWLLWLW

News, views, and a quick form guide

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