The World Cup might still be two years away, but that doesn’t mean that the summer of 2016 is going to be anything other than magical. With the Copa America happening right now within the United States, there’s plenty of footy to satiate any fanatic. However, crossing the Atlantic ocean during June and July will see you crash headlong into the European Championships. A tournament comprised of the best footballing nations of Europe, and a tournament plunged deep into the mirth of quality seen from European soccer. A chance to shine in your continent and be remembered as legends of the game; it’s a crown for an area that proudly proclaims to be the birthplace of the world’s game. In 2016, one country will rise and be proclaimed as king…bring it on!

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While fans of the USMNT can stand a little higher after a thrashing of Costa Rica (keep in mind, that’s not the same Costa Rica team that made a decent World Cup run in 2014), it’s about time to turn our focus to France and the 2016 European Championships. With that in mind, the Center Circle has decided to give you a group-by-group look at what we can expect, what to watch for, and who we see moving on from the group stage. It’s Europe, it’s for a major title, and it’s going to be amazing!


Group C is ready to explode with excitement as it contains World Champions Germany, Northern Ireland, Ukraine, and constant threat Poland. Goal scorers on every squad and the chance for Germany to stake their claim as a dynasty means things are going to get interesting. With the pressure sitting solely on the World Champions to succeed, it only makes sense to start there…

While Germany would have been the obvious favorite (to be fair, they still are) a few months ago, there has been a few massive stumbles in the build up to this tournament. However, to be as boring as possible, it doesn’t matter. Germany is the only squad in this group that boasts world-class depth on the pitch, on the bench, and with the players that won’t even be labeled as a sub. Neuer is still the best in the world, Müller is a non-stop machine, the midfield is awash with a ridiculous blend of talented youth and elite-level veterans.

As if this team didn’t have enough talent going for it, there’s four or five players that will be hoping this is their jump for either a big-time move or one last major contract. Lukas Podolski, Mario Gomez, Leroy Sane, and a wealth of others will hope this tournament is their ticket. The scariest thing for this group is that the talent of youth will make the eventual exit of German legends like Schweinsteiger much smoother than other national teams could…there is potential for a dynasty, but bringing home only one World Cup will somehow be seen as a waste for this group.

PREDICTION: First in the group

WHY:…far too deep to be troubled, and far too talented to slip up. (although…it sounds like we could have just sounded like the people that once praised the Titanic…)

Ukraine may be the most unknown entity for casual fans when we talk about teams with a legitimate shot at making a deep run. A team built to frustrate and snag goals on the counter, Ukraine will have an immediate chance to impress as their first fixture is against Germany. However, no matter the result, Ukraine is walking into this tournament with one of the best midfield groups in the tournament. Tymoshchuk is an institution, Yevhen Konoplyanka is going to prove his way into a massive club, and Viktor Kovalenko is soon to be another future star out of Shakhtar Donetsk.

The only problem keeping Ukraine from being elite is that their strikers aren’t known for setting the scoring charts alight. For a team so built on the counter, everything is doomed to fail if their midfield isn’t contributing to the scoring big-time. Oddly, their best striking option is suspended for six months after he attacked a referee…so, it might have been a bad omen for the team’s chances once they get started in France. Watch half these players be in every weekend warrior fan’s transfer rumors after two matches…prepare to be surprised.

PREDICTION: 2nd in the group.

WHY: Their defense is too organized and their midfield is too talented…Poland is good, and they have the one piece Ukraine lacks in Robert Lewandowski, but these major tournaments are always the best at exposing one man teams.

A team that is going to take advantage of a rule allowing three of the third place teams to qualify is going to be Poland. There’s a lot of talent in this squad, but depth is going to keep this squad from being one of the best teams in the group and the tournament. Having experienced a few injuries before even getting to France, Poland can’t afford anything to happen (someone should be constantly monitoring Lewandowski’s health and happiness). They get a huge chance to snag points and build confidence by facing Northern Ireland first. Momentum and health could carry them forward easily…

Lewandowski might be the name everyone knows, but it’s going to be Arkadiusz Milik that needs to be scoring. Every team is going to shadow Bayern’s striking star like crazy with multiple players, so Milik will be given a little more freedom. Only 22 and from perennial shopping center Ajax, Milik is about to turn this tournament into a big payday. our last thought is that this team’s keeper situation could change on any iffy performance. Ex-Arsenal keeper Fabianski will probably start, but Arsenal-loanee Szczesny and always eccentric Artur Boruc will be waiting in the wings. All three have always felt on the verge of becoming elite, but none of them have ever truly broken through.

PREDICTION: Third…unless people forget to respect Lewandowski.

WHY: Simply not enough elite talent.

Northern Ireland has the best situation of any team in this tournament. Get bounced from the group after two matches? Merely qualifying was successful and the fans will support. Steal points against teams seen as vastly superior? Exceeding expectations and the fans will support. Get out of the group? We want to be in a pub with those fans…please…

PREDICTION: No pressure, and their finishing position doesn’t matter.

WHY: Not capable of truly competing against the other three teams in this group, but this team has already succeeded by even getting to France. Everything is a win from here on.

There you have our Center Circle guide to group C. We hope that something in here helps you sound a bit more intelligent than your mates, but, a bit more selfishly, we just hope we get our predictions right. Keep an eye out for the other group predictions and enjoy the Euros!

Euro 2016 Group Previews:

Group A

Group B

Group C

Group D

Group E

Group F


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