Poland opens Group C fixtures of the Euro 2016 championships against Northern Ireland at the Allianz Riviera in Nice on Sunday evening.
Poland qualified to the Euros from a tough group that includes Germany, Republic Ireland and Scotland by finishing second, with 6 wins, 3 draws and 1 loss. They were also the top scoring team in the qualifiers with 33 goals in 10 matches. Their only defeat was against World Champions Germany, whom they will meet once again in the group clash on next Thursday. Poland were on a 7 match run until the 2-1 home defeat to Netherlands on 1st June. They were then held to a goal less draw by a lowly Lithuania, but one must believe this is a sign of things to come in tournament.
Northern Ireland football team had grown in stature under Michael O’Neill in the past two years. They booked their ticket to their first ever Euros as group winners surpassing Romania and Hungary in the standings. They lost just one match during the qualifying stages and their form continued till date and are unbeaten in the last 12 matches. O’Neill may not have any superstars in his squad, but this is a hardworking group of players whom every highly ranked team in the group must be vary of.
Poland Team News:
Adam Nawalka has no fully fit squad at his disposal and he is expected to field the strongest possible eleven.
Robert Lewandowski is the key player to watch for the Polish side, who netted 13 league goals in the qualifying rounds. His partnership with Ajax youngster Arkadiusz Milik in the attacking front prove vital for the team’s success in this difficult fixture.
Wojciech Szczesny, the Arsenal goal keeper on loan at Roma, is Nawalka’s preferred choice in goal, but both Artur Boruc and Lukasz Fabianski have plenty of experience on international stage.
Poland: Predicted Line-up (4-4-2)
Szczesny – Wawrzyniak, Salamon, Glik, Piszczek – Grosicki, Zielinski, Krychowiak, Blaszczykowski – Milik, Lewandowski.
Northern Ireland Team News:
Kyle Lafferty, who scored 7 goals in the qualifiers is a major doubt for the opener against Poland, after sustaining an injury during training on Tuesday. Wigan Athletic striker Will Grigg could get the nod to partner Conor Washington if he fails to recover in time.
Watford defender Craig Cathcart is carrying a knock, but he is expected to recover in time start to partner West Brom pair Jonny Evans and Gareth McAuley in defense.
Southampton midfielder Steven Davis, who is also the captain of the side, is Northern Ireland’s key player to watch out for.
Northern Ireland: Predicted Line-up (3-5-2)
McGovern – McAuley, Cathcart, Evans – Dallas, Norwood, Baird, Davis, McLaughlin – Grigg, Washington.
Poland vs Northern Ireland: Head-to-Head Stats
Northern Ireland are slightly edge Poland in head-to-head record with 4 wins, 2 draws and 3 losses in 9 matches between the sides.
The latest meeting between the two sides was in the World Cup qualifying campaign for South Africa 2010, Northern Ireland maintained an unbeaten record over Poland by winning 3-2 at home and latest drawing 1-1 in the reverse fixture, which is the last meeting the two sides, on September 2009.
Poland vs Northern Ireland: Prediction
Poland have a disastrous record in the last two European Championships. They failed to win a single match in 2008 edition and in 2012, which they co-hosted, earning an early exit. And manager Adam Nawalka will be extremely cautious to avoid a similar fate with a talented squad at his disposal this time.
Northern Ireland, who are coming on the back on a 12 match unbeaten run and the morale of the team is sky high. With their high confidence and work rate on the field they will be provide a tough test for Poland, who hasn’t won any of their last 6 matches in Euro finals. The absence of Kyle Lafferty could deter their chances going forward, but their defense remains extremely difficult for oppositions to break down. Michael O’Neill’s have not conceded more than 1 goal in a match since November 2014, which stretches to 14 matches.
There are no clear favorites for Sunday’s Group C opener as Northern Ireland must be considered as an extremely dangerous side and Poland are a side that could flop on big stage. The full outcome could go either way and it will be one decisive goal that separates the sides in the end. Though I back both teams to score in this fixture.
Exact Score Prediction: Poland 1-1 Northern Ireland (Betting on this match involves high risk).
- Both Teams to Score (odds 2.24)
- Handicap – Northern Ireland +2 (odds 1.32)
- Lewandowski to score any time (odds 2.11)
*Odds from Bet-at-Home at the time of composing this article.
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