Euro 2016 Group D wide open after Germany defeat by Poland
Arkadiusz Milik and Sebastian Mila wrote their names in Polish football folklore by inflicting Germany’s first-ever defeat to their neighbours and bitter rivals.
Die Mannschaft have a tradition of poaching players from across the border since reunification. Record scorer and leading World Cup finals marksman Miroslav Klose is the most high-profile example, but he could do nothing effect the outcome of this upset. Fellow Polish-born forward Lukas Podolski hit the bar off the bench, so lost in the country of their origin.
Veteran stager Klose joined defensive duo Phillip Lahm and Per Mertesacker in retiring from internationals following Germany’s World Cup win in Brazil. Joachim Low was also without as many as 10 squad regulars, so this was as good a chance as any Poland had to defeat the global kings and take command of Euro 2016 qualifying Group D.
A price of 13/2 with Coral say they will top the pool now, but Germany remain strong odds-on favourites at 1/6 to do that. Detractors of Die Mannschaft will have delighted in their defensive dearth and seeing the brash arrogance of sweeper-keeper Manuel Neuer chastened by a defeat for which the Bayern Munich stopper was certainly culpable.
There is a school of thought, however, that suggests the real losers were Scotland (22/1 to finish top) and the Republic of Ireland (10/1), despite their own very different respective victories over Georgia and Gibraltar.
Gordon Strachan described the 1-0 win against Eastern European opposition at Ibrox as “the best… we’ve had as a football team since I’ve been here.” Edging Georgia 1-0 and missing several other openings does raise some questions marks for Scotland.
The Tartan Army, packed into the home of Glasgow giants Rangers, saw their side, as Strachan put it, “play that type of free-flowing football, with such ease, and break down a good side,” but that profligacy could be a problem.
Strike pairing Steven Fletcher and Steven Naismith take note. They needed to take the ruthlessness of recent respective club performances in the Premier League for Sunderland and Everton over to representing their country.
Poland, Martin O’Neill’s men and Germany are all tougher assignments to come for Scotland. Chances will be fewer, so they must be clinical if they are to mount a serious challenge and reach the Euro 2016 finals in France or be in with a chance of a play-off place.
Ireland, meanwhile, entered seventh heaven against UEFA new boys Gibraltar, with skipper Robbie Keane hitting a hat-trick inside 20 minutes. This result has helped their goal difference, which could be a factor in deciding whether an automatic qualification or play-off place goes to one of the British Isles sides.
Such a wide margin of victory for O’Neill’s men also brings into comparative focus how England got on against minnows San Marino. What is worrying, however, is the Republic now face a wounded Germany team that has lost two of the three matches played, but also failed to keep a clean sheet, since lifting the World Cup.
Low will be targeting a backlash, particularly with his versatile forward line set to play against an Irish central defensive pairing of John O’Shea and Marc Wilson. Die Mannschaft handed out hidings in this fixture both both home and away in World Cup qualifying, and that is why they are odds-on at 1/4 to beat the Republic again. It’s 11/1 on O’Neill upsetting Germany, with 9/2 on a draw.
Strachan, meanwhile, faces the unenviable task of taking Scotland to Warsaw. Poland will be sky high in confidence, now have Ajax loanee Milik to occupy opposition defenders as well as established centre forward Robert Lewandowski up front, and are odds-on at 10/11 to win again. It’s 9/4 for the draw, and 10/3 that the Tartan Army will cheer their team to victory.