Northern Ireland will want to burst onto the scene in their opening Group C encounter with Poland, as Will Grigg will be aiming to cause the Northern Ireland fans something to chant about, with Grigg aiming to explode into the heart of Poland’s defence for 90 minutes.
Northern Ireland will be going into the tournament with extremely high spirits, having not lost in 2016 so far and being unbeaten since the 25th March 2015. Despite having only scored 5 goals in 4 games in 2016, Northern Ireland will be aiming to put this behind them and start to bang them in during their time in France.
Poland have prepared well heading into this tournament, having played 6 friendlies since their last competitive game last year. However, Poland have had mixed form. Before drawing to Lithuania and losing to Holland in their last two friendlies, Poland were on a 5-game unbeaten run before then. Poland will be hoping they can recapture their early form of 2016 and run the show tonight.
Kyle Lafferty appears to have shaken off the groin injury which he suffered in training last Tuesday, whereas Chris Brunt will miss the tournament through a knee injury.
Poland fans will be on the edge of their seats as they wait to hear the news of winger Kamil Grosicki, who picked up a serious-looking ankle injury in the draw with Lithuania last week.
Northern Ireland’s key man for tonight’s clash, Kyle Lafferty, will have to be at his best if he is to get past the Polish defence. Lafferty currently sits second in Northern Ireland’s all-time goalscoring list so he will have to prove a point about why he is so high up tonight and if Northern Ireland need a win, it has to come against Poland.
Poland’s captain, Robert Lewandowski, will have to be the best he can be tonight if he wants to push Poland through to the next round. Potentially being partnered with Milik up top, Lewandowski will need to profit on scraps when he gets chances and the big Bayern Munich forward will need to be on his toes all game long.
How will the game go?
I can see this game ending in a 2-1 win for Poland. I think that Northern Ireland will start the better team and be able to get themselves in front before half-time through a Kyle Lafferty goal, but through an inspirational half-time team talk, I feel that Poland will come out in the second half and pin Northern Ireland back for the second of 45 minutes, with Lewandowski netting both the goals.