Aidan Slinn (Germany) & Joe Proctor (England)
Germany (Aidan Slinn)
How will I watch it?
Seeing your name pop up next to Germany is one of those little fist bump moments. The world champions looked unstoppable in the world cup two years ago in Brazil and boast a squad full of world class talent, they also have a great pedigree at international tournaments.
I am excited to watch Germany this tournament and surreptitiously quite pleased to have a motive to support them a little bit despite them being a national rival. It will be interesting to see how they fair without the leadership of national icon Phillip Lahm, who retired from international football after winning the world cup in Brazil, which isn’t a bad way to go really.
I’ll be watching tonight’s match from the comfort of my living room, after watching England’s opener out last night and factoring in the harsh reality of going to work tomorrow morning, it’s going to be a cup of tea rather than a stein and bratwurst.
Players to watch:
Where to start? Well actually, I’ll start by saying that the Germans are going through a bit of a transitional period and despite having some world class players, a lot of the old guard which were relied upon two years ago when they lifted football’s most coveted trophy are no longer part of the international set up. Paired with this, Dortmund’s explosive winger Marco Reus is missing due to injury and Antonio Rudiger’s last minute injury has left Germany’s defence thin on the ground. Jonothan Tah’s late call up means Germany take over from England as the tournament’s youngest squad.
Thomas Muller is the leading light for Germany. The big forward bagged 9 goals in qualifying, whereas the largest tally any other player managed was 3. Germany look to him for goals and he usually delivers. This said, Muller hasn’t yet been involved in a goal at the European finals, although I wouldn’t bank on him changing that record tonight. He takes over from Miroslav Klose as Germany’s most threatening goal scorer.
Julian Draxler (who is unbelievably still only 22 years old) has the chance to showcase his impressive talent on the international stage and cement his place as a mainstay in the national team. His raw pace could cause Ukraine all kinds of trouble.
Germany 3-0 Ukraine. Despite Germany’s changing of the guard and their slightly shaky preparation for the tournament I fancy Die Deutsche to rise to the occasion and see of Ukraine reasonably comfortably.
Germany have never lost an opening game at the finals and I am not expecting them to start here, their sheer ability and efficiency should be enough to see them dominate.
Ukraine (Joe Proctor)
How will I watch it?
Like many people my weekend was ruined slightly when Vasaili Berezutski sent a looping header over Joe Hart and secured Russia the most underserved of last minute equalisers. I’ll therefore be watching this one at home slightly hungover and annoyed.
Luckily though this is why you should do a sweepstake, to give us someone else to root for when England inevitably let us down, and I’ll be hoping my Ukraine side can help me rediscover some of the elation and optimism that accompanied Eric Dier’s superb free-kick yesterday. A match up with World Champions and perennial contenders Germany is perhaps not the ideal pick me up, but I’m looking forward to backing a team playing the role of underdog. Especially with the German’s having a few shaky results of late, beaten at home by Slovakia in a recent friendly and defeated by Poland and Ireland in qualification.
Players to watch
I was actually quite pleased to get Ukraine in the draw, wisdom seems to be that they and Northern Ireland will fight it out for third place in the group but this team is a lot more talented than many people think.
Ukraine’s two biggest name are their flying wingers Andriy Yarmolenko and Yehven Konolpyanka. Both are very good players and could have a good outing against the German full-backs that will likely consist of an out of position Bendick Howedes and an inexperienced Jonas Hector.
Young defensive midfielder Taras Stepanenko is another one to watch following an excellent season for Shakhtar Donetsk. 20 year old teammate Viktor Kovalenko has broken into the national side recently, after producing a number of impressive performances to help fill the void left by Willian at Shakhtar, and could have a big impact if given a chance.
Also 8 or 9 of Ukraine’s probable starting 11 play their club for either Dynamo Kiev or Shakhtar and as we’ve seen with Spain (Barcelona and Real Madrid) and Germany (Bayern Munich and Borrusia Dortmund), having a group of players who consistently play together domestically can be a major advantage in tournament football.
I’m going for a 2-1 Germany win as their quality and experience will eventually tell. However I expect Ukraine to put in a solid performance and grab a goal.