Robert Lewandowski is only one man
The first half was comprised of relentless pressure from Poland and little else. Despite all that pressure, Poland were unable to break the plane of the Northern Ireland goal. The Polish fullbacks and wingers sent in 23 crosses in the first half alone, but with Northern lreland’s tight defense and focus on neutralizing Robert Lewandowski they were easily able to repel wave after wave of pressure.
To be successful in this tournament, Poland need to be able to open space when defenses are able to shut down Robert Lewandowski. Luckily, even off the ball Lewandowski is a major threat as his far post run dragged the Northern Ireland centerbacks apart to create enough space for Arkaduiz Milik to open the scoring.
Having an in-game plan to transition Lewandowski from focusing on attack to focusing on creating space is going to be key to Poland winning Group C.
Keep an eye on Bartosz Kapustka this tournament
You’re either lying or a very big Polish first division fan if you’ve heard of Bartosz Kapustka. The 19-year-old midfielder plays for KS Cracovia who finished 4th this past season in the Ekstraklasa. He was one of the few electric sparks for Poland, rotating around the midfield, combining well with his teammates, and fantastic in his willingness to work both ways for his country.
His best highlight was a a chest control on a high bouncing loose ball that he one touch controlled before volleying a thunderbolt that forced Michael McGovern into a quick fingertip save. Keep an eye on him because I’d almost bet money he’s in the Bundesliga next season if this tournament goes well for Poland.
There’s a reason Northern Ireland are the worst FIFA ranked team at Euro 2016
Northern Ireland are the plucky upstart nation that the new 24-team expanded format is supposed to benefit. Unfortunately, the reason they’re here is because they were drawn into a group with some of the worst, and smallest, teams in Europe. They’re minnows who pounded on other minnows and now they’re in a pond with sharks.
Their first shot came in the 66th minute. It was easily blocked. There 2nd shot came with 3/4’s of the game gone and was a self-created 30-yard bicycle kick from Kyle Lafferty that left pretty much anyone who saw it shaking their head at how utterly unnecessary it was.
We can praise them for their defensive solidity but this team is devoid of attacking prowess and that’s not going to carry them to victory over teams that are in any way capable of defending. That includes Poland, Ukraine, and especially Germany.