Germany v Ukraine, Sunday June 12
Lille, Live on BBC, 8pm
Though they suffered 2 defeats along the way, qualification for Euro 2016 never really looked in any doubt for Joachim Low’s men as they came through a tricky group featuring Poland, Scotland and the Republic of Ireland. The German defence was uncharacteristically porous during qualification and they conceded a very unGermanic 9 goals along the way including 3 to Scotland, 2 to the Ireland and 1 to Georgia.
In the group stages, they won 7 games, drew 1 and lost 2, scoring 24 goals, conceding 9 and ending up with a +15 goal difference.
Ukraine’s European qualification campaign was played out against a backdrop of political tension. Their biggest domestic side Shakhtar Donetsk have been playing their home matches 800 miles away from their normal stadium, and disagreements with neighbouring Russia have left the Ukrainians unable to call up players based in the Russian leagues.
In the group stages, they won 6 games, drew 1 and lost 3, scoring 14 goals, conceding 4 and ending up with a +10 goal difference.
Normally when talking about Germany in major tournaments, you reach for the old book of cliches: Ruthless and efficient. A well-oiled machine. However, in recent times, this German team has been anything but. They leak goals left, right and centre – 18 of the qualifying nations conceded fewer goals per match than the Germans and they were the least resilient defence of any qualifier with 6.3 shots faced per goal conceded. Obviously they still possess unbelievable creative talent when going forward, but defensively, this is not the Germany of old.
The question is: Can Ukraine hurt them?
Um… probably not. Defensively, the Ukraine look in solid shape, they are one of four sides at the finals not to have conceded more than once in a match during qualifying, however going forward they are nothing to write home about. They failed to score in 4 of their qualification matches, the joint-most of any qualifier and spent 26.8% of their time (289 minutes) losing during qualifiers – the highest of any qualifier.
Germany may not be the same side we are used to watching at major tournaments, and as Euro 2016 progresses they will get seriously tested. Not so much in this game though where it looks like they should comfortably progress past Ukraine.
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