Thursday, June 16th:
England v. Wales
This one obviously has the intrigue of the two British nations going against each other. As if England wouldn’t have virtually all of the pressure on them in this match-up already, they now come into this one following the disappointing draw to Russia, while Wales is top of the group after their defeat of Slovakia.
All-time, England has 66 wins, 21 draws, and just 14 losses vs. their Welsh neighbors. They’ve only played four times in the last 30 years, with England winning all four and Wales failing to score a single goal.
This English team has a ton of talent but you can question how prepared they are mentally. They’re heavily relying on young, inexperienced players and their captain, Rooney, is not exactly known for his level-headed leadership. Coming into this one following the Russian draw, what happens if Wales takes the lead? How do they respond?
Prediction: England 2, Wales 1
Ukraine v. Northern Ireland
Here’s a ridiculous statistic: N. Ireland didn’t touch the ball a single time in Poland’s half of the field for the entire first half of that game. Only after Poland scored early in the 2nd half did they make any effort to get forward and look for a goal.
They can’t afford to be so defensive here, because they absolutely need a win, with Germany awaiting in their final group game. Actually, a draw here could spell doom for both teams, because Ukraine won’t want to go into their Poland game needing a win to advance. That has the potential to make for an exciting game from two otherwise uninspiring teams.
Prediction: Ukraine 2, N. Ireland 0
Germany v. Poland
Not on the level of England/Wales, but a rivalry game here, nonetheless, between these two countries that share a 300-mile-long border. A little surprising that they’ve only played each other twenty times ever, with 13 German wins, 6 draws, and a lone Poland victory. But, that Poland win came in October 2014 and in their four contests in the last five years there’s one win for each and two draws, so anything is possible.
Polish star Lewandowski will be going up against a bunch of his Bayern Munich teammates here. As for the Germans, they’ve opted for Mario Gotze over Mario Gomez at striker, which didn’t produce any goals in the first game. We’ll see if they stick with him. We’ll also see if center back Mats Hummels plays after missing the first game with injury. His replacement, Shkodran Mustafi, actually scored a goal, but isn’t as good a defender.
I’ll go out on a limb and call a Polish upset here.
Prediction: Poland 2, Germany 1