Northern Ireland and Poland will lock horns in what looks to be a fascinating Group C Euro 2016 tie.
Dubbed by many as potential dark horses in this tournament, Poland will be pinning their hopes on Robert Lewandowski to take them as far as possible. They’re up against Northern Ireland on Sunday, who surprised many by topping Group F in qualifying.
Poland v Northern Ireland | Sunday 12 June | Allianz Riviera | 18:00
To Win Match
Poland 7/10 | Draw 26/10 | Northern Ireland 9/2
Coach Adam Nawalka guided the national side to their third successive European Championship with a successful qualification campaign from a group that also included Germany and Republic of Ireland. The White Eagles soared to second spot qualification in Group D, but they had made an honourable charge to finish atop that group, eventually ending just one agonising point behind bitter rivals and neighbours Germany.
Despite finishing second, they comfortably outscored Germany, striking 33 times with Robert Lewandowski contributing 13 and the Ajax striker Arek Milik six. With a strong core based around the likes of Jakub Blaszczykowski, Grzegorz Krychowiak and Lewandowski, Nawalka is hopeful of bettering their efforts in the last two tournaments, with Poland failing to progress from the group stages on both occasions.
With Bayern Munich forward Lewandowski spearheading the attack, Poland have a great chance of qualifying and Northern Ireland will struggle to keep him quiet. Lewandowski, who scored 13 times in qualifying, netted 29 Bundesliga goals for Pep Guardiola’s side as they secured their fourth successive league title with a game to spare.
Lewandowski scored the opening goal of Euro 2012 and he looks set to add to his tally at the European Championship in France.
Northern Ireland are Euro first-timers and back in a big tournament for the first time since the 1982 World Cup as Group F winners ahead of Romania. They were handed a favourable group, with Romania, Hungary, Finland, Greece and the Faroe Islands, but Michael O'Neill’s men lost just once in their 10 fixtures.
Victories in their first three games set them on their way, and they were undeterred when their solitary defeat arrived on matchday four in Romania. The Green and White Army have already achieved a great feat in making it to the event, but they could face a truly tough task, starting with free-scoring Poland.
Northern Ireland were never going to be overwhelming favourites in any group, but O’Neill is no stranger to going up against the odds. This is the man who took Shamrock Rovers to the Europa League in 2011 on a budget of £600,000, marking history as the only Irish team to reach the group stages of a European club competition.
Northern Ireland aren’t blessed with sheer class, but they’re a side of hard grafters that will be an irritation to Poland with their energy and work rate. The Green and White Army will need to get the ball into the penalty area from all angles as Kyle Lafferty’s efforts up top will be instrumental. Lafferty was key to his country’s qualification, bagging an impressive seven goals to see Northern Ireland end atop Group F.
The Norwich City forward’s strikes have made him the nation’s second-highest ever scorer behind former strike partner David Healy.
Verdict: Poland 7/10
Poland are a dangerous team who showed their quality in qualifying, losing just once while Group winners Germany lost twice. They scored 33 goals in that pool with Lewandowski taking the lions share. Not only are they aiming to qualify from their group, but they want top spot – such is their expectations. The home win is tipped confidently.
Written by Chadley Nagel for @Hollywoodbets.