Germany vs. Poland: Robert Lewandowski meets familiar foes

World champions Germany face a familiar foe — and one of the world’s best strikers Robert Lewandowski — in their second match of Group C. Stephan Uersfeld (Germany) and Ryan Hubbard (Poland) preview the match. What’s at stake here? Stephan Uersfeld: This, in all likelihood, will decide the winner of group C. Both sides won […]

World champions Germany face a familiar foe — and one of the world’s best strikers Robert Lewandowski — in their second match of Group C.

Stephan Uersfeld (Germany) and Ryan Hubbard (Poland) preview the match.

What’s at stake here?

Stephan Uersfeld: This, in all likelihood, will decide the winner of group C. Both sides won their opening matches and will go into their final games against Northern Ireland and Ukraine as favourites. The two neighbouring countries are the two best teams in their group and have similar lofty ambitions.

Joachim Low’s XI on Sunday beat Ukraine 2-0, and bar a difficult 20 minutes right before half-time, they were in control while leaving a lot of room for improvement. Traditionally, there has been a drop in form during the second matches in each tournament Germany have played in under their current boss, but this time around confidence is high they can avoid such a dip.

The Bundestrainer might welcome back Mats Hummels in the starting lineup, and could make changes in attack where Mario Gotze disappointed against Ukraine.

Ryan Hubbard: With Sunday’s narrow 1-0 victory over Northern Ireland, pressure has been lifted off of Polish shoulders. A confidence wafts around the Biale Orly camp, but not arrogance. With the world champions up next in Paris, that would be foolish.

However, the fear of facing Germany no longer weighs heavy on Poland: remembering the 2-0 qualifying win in Warsaw — their first against the Nationalmannschaft — makes sure of that.

Supporters are optimistic they can pick up a second straight victory at the Euros, although on Thursday night a draw would probably be cheered as loudly as a win.

Key Battle

SU: Germany’s defence vs. Arkadiusz Milik

Aged 18, Milik joined Bundesliga club Bayer Leverkusen in early 2013. He was hailed as the next Lewandowski but 18 months, 24 league games for Leverkusen and Augsburg and three goals later, he left Germany’s first division as the Poland flop. He had just turned 20.

In his two years at Ajax, he has struck 32 goals in 52 league games, added a further six for Poland in the qualifying campaign and was on target against Northern Ireland in their opening win in France.

Milik sits deeper than Lewandowski and uses the spaces freed up by his teammate. He is set to face one of the best central defences in Europe, though, with Jerome Boateng possibly joined by the returning Hummels, who will need to shut him down as well as Poland’s star player Lewandowski. It will not be an easy task.

RH: Grzegorz Krychowiak vs. Mesut Ozil

While he was given all the time in the world to pull the strings in Nice, Sevilla defensive midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak will not be afforded the same luxury for the second game running.

Likely to be forced into a much more defensive position, he can expect to be put under considerable pressure, and be forced to contribute to Poland’s attacking play on the counter.

His main task will be simple: stop Mesut Ozil. The Arsenal playmaker will be relied upon to be the creative force for Germany in the final third and Krycha will need to be at his best to deny him any opportunity to dominate.

Star Man

SU: Mesut Ozil

It took Ozil 45 minutes to find his way into the tournament. In the dying seconds of the opening win over Ukraine, his clinical cross found Bastian Schweinsteiger, who made the game safe at 2-0. The move was a confidence boost for the entire team — not only did the injury-hit captain score, but the final result made the game look easier than it perhaps was.

With Thomas Muller still looking for form, Ozil has to step up and lead the German attack. It would also not hurt the 27-year-old to convert his chances.

RH: Robert Lewandowski

If one man can make the difference for Poland, it’s Lewandowski. While Northern Ireland played an ultra-defensive tactic to nullify Lewy’s goal scoring threat, the Germans simply won’t be allowed to be so negative; and that’s where he can hope to thrive. Give him an extra half a yard of space and he will score.

The 27-year-old Bayern striker could also come up against a couple of teammates in the form of Boateng and new signing Hummels. Surely he knows them well enough to exploit any weaknesses.

Prediction

SU: 1-1. Both teams will be happy to grab the point and all but secure their berth in the knockout stages of the competition.

RH: Agreed, 1-1. A point should theoretically be enough for the Poles to advance and, while it’ll be difficult, they do have a chance of achieving it. However it will probably end-up being a nerve-wracking evening for the fans.

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