Germany, as World Champions, come into the tournament as one of the favourites and therefore will want to show their power from the first minute of their first game. The match against Ukraine gives them a good opportunity to assert their dominance in the group early and to demonstrate that they are in France to win the Euros.
On paper this is an easy game for Germany, the strength of Muller, Kroos and Neuer seems too much for lowly-rated Ukraine to handle. However as the previous games have shown, no game at this tournament is easy. Germany will have to be on top of their game if they are to defeat Ukraine. This year, a win in the group stages nearly guarantees you progression to the knockout stages and therefore Ukraine will not want to give this to Germany without a fight.
The German players will know that the majority of people think that this will be a walk in the park for them and therefore the pressure on them rises. However these players are up for the challenge. The sheer depth of this German squad which does not even need to include the likes of Marco Reus means that the Germans seem to be the strongest team in the tournament.
These German players showed 2 years ago in Brazil that expectation does not faze them as they came out winners of the World Cup putting on an absolutely brilliant defensive performance against Argentina in the final. The same players will want to demonstrate that they still have that grit and determination that won them the World Cup as they come into this tournament.
However Ukraine will have noticed the dip in form for the German national side since their win in Brazil in 2014. The German side have lost 7 times since then and were unconvincing in the qualifiers losing to Republic of Ireland and Poland. They have also lost friendlies to England and Slovakia; Ukraine may find some hope in trying to exploit Germany’s poor form leading up to this competition.
For Ukraine, they come to France as an outsider, nobody expects them to perform and many think they will bow out at the group stage. However for the Ukrainian team, they will want to prove their critics wrong and the Germany match gives them a great opportunity to do just that. Of course that will depend on their two wingers, Konoplyanka and Yarmolenko, having a good game as many of Ukraine’s hopes land on their shoulders. Yarmolenko scored more goals than any other Ukrainian during qualifying and Konoplyanka created more chances than any other Ukrainian player, showing that the two wingers are absolutely vital to Ukrainian hopes of progressing in France. Nonetheless, if Ukraine can cause an upset against Germany it will give them a very good chance to progress to the knockout stages of the tournament.
In my opinion, the Germany team is just too strong for Ukraine. Although it would be great to see plucky Ukraine pick up 3 points against the World Champions, there is too much strength and depth in the German national team that means that they will struggle at the Grand Stade Lille Métropole tonight. Offensively, using their star wingers, Ukraine will create chances but the attacking prowess and threat of Thomas Muller and Mezut Ozil will be too much for the weak Ukrainian defence to handle.
The only real predicament for Joachim Low coming into this game is whether or not to risk playing Mats Hummels who has been out with a calf injury. Risking him could cause further injury and rule him out of the rest of the tournament but Hummels does play an important role in the German back line and brings a more experienced face to the line-up rather than Jonathan Tah who was called up for the Euros.
Nevertheless, Germany will not be comfortable winners during this game, they will be pushed by Ukraine but will come out on top regardless of Ukrainian strength. Much like the opening game of this tournament, Germany will dominate and create chances without having that clinical edge but will come out on top eventually just like France did. My prediction is a 2-0 win to Germany but a hard-fought battle with Ukraine creating some opportunities offensively.
Predicted line-ups with key players highlighted:
Germany (4-5-1): Neuer – Hector – Boateng – Hummels – Howedes – Muller – Kroos – Ozil – Khedira – Draxler – Gomez
Ukraine (4-5-1): Pyatov – Fedetskyi – Khacheridi – Rakytskyi – Shevchuk – Garmash – Sydorchuk – Yarmolenko – Stepaneko – Konoplyanka – Zozulya