Mark O’Haire’s Euro Tips – N. Ireland v Germany
Paris is the setting for Group C’s finale as Northern Ireland bid to build on their fantastic 2-0 triumph over Ukraine and confirm their place in the knockout stages of Euro 2016 when taking on world champions Germany.
Northern Ireland v Germany, Tuesday 21st June 17.00, BBC1
Michael O’Neill’s side know a point is probably necessary to cement a Last-16 berth but following their first win at a major tournament since famously beating hosts Spain at the 1982 World Cup, confidence in the Green & White Army camp is high.
West Brom defender Gareth McAuley headed in Oliver Norwood’s perfectly delivered free-kick before Niall McGinn finished a rebound in stoppage time to give the minnows a welcome victory. It was all the more satisfying for O’Neill who’d gambled with his team selection, making five changes.
Top scorer Kyle Lafferty was relegated to the substitutes’ bench. His place went to Conor Washington, the QPR striker who was working as a postman and playing for St Ives in the ninth tier of English football the last time the Euros were staged in 2012.
Washington and Jamie Ward proved a handful for a Ukraine team who had kept 21 clean sheets in their previous 39 games. And Northern Ireland’s strength from set-pieces told again as McAuley broke the deadlock from another dead-ball situation.
It was a thoroughly deserved win as they prepare to face Germany for the first time in 11 years. The past three head-to-heads have ended in three-goal defeats for the Green & White Army but considering the side hasn’t shipped more than one goal in any of their past 15 fixtures – losing just twice – they might not be the pushover the pre-match odds suggest.
Germany played out the first goalless match of the tournament when being held to a 0-0 by Poland. And although Die Mannschaft’s recent run (W4-D1-L4) leaves a lot to be desired, it’s worth noting Joachim Low’s troops have bagged seven wins in their last nine competitive matches, including five by more than a solitary strike.
The world champions have leaked just one goal in seven major tournament matches and qualifying losses to Poland and the Republic of Ireland are their only defeats in 29 meaningful matches, highlighting the task awaiting Northern Ireland on Tuesday night in the French capital.
However, it’s not all sweetness and sunshine. Mario Gotze scored the winner for Germany in the 2014 World Cup final but has had a tough time since, often starting from the bench for Bayern Munich and struggling with a series of niggling injuries.
Gotze was disappointing against Ukraine in his country’s opening Euro 2016 match, with speculation that he would lose his place to a rejuvenated Mario Gomez against the Poles.
Gotze did start in Paris – the return of defender Mats Hummels was the only change – and he did force one save but was largely a peripheral figure and was hauled off after 65 minutes.
Deploying him in the false nine role has not worked, with his side lacking some kind of focal point at the end of their measured approach play. But even Gomez’s introducing with 15 minutes left on the clock had little impact and Low needs to figure out how to sharpen his attack.
Die Mannschaft failed to land a single shot-on-target in the first half of the Polish encounter, with just three across the full 90 minutes.
With Northern Ireland conceding two or more goals just twice in their last 23 outings with 20 of their past 25 featuring fewer than three goals, it’s hard to see a thrashing being handed out.
Northern Ireland’s past seven defeats have all arrived by either the 1-0 (5/1) or 2-0 (9/2) correct scores and a repeat tallies nicely with the trends.
But drill down further and there’s potential to scoop an even tastier price. The Green & White Army have conceded only one first-half goal in their last 22 matches so entering the Half-Time/Full-Time Correct Score market is again recommended.
Backing the 0-0 half-time correct score along with the 1-0 (9/1) and 2-0 (14/1) Germany wins return chunky odds that just can’t be ignored for bold backers.
HT/FT Correct Score – Draw 0-0, Germany 1-0 @ 9/1
HT/FT Correct Score – Draw 0-0, Germany 2-0 @ 14/1
*Prices correct at time of publication.