Odds: Germany 57/100, The Draw 31/10, Ukraine 23/4
World champions Germany enter the Euro 2016 fray on Sunday evening to the widespread expectation that they will put a checkered post-Brazil history behind them with an assured victory over Ukraine.
Joachim Low’s squad oozes class in spite of the retirements of Phillip Lahm, Miroslav Klose and Per Mertesacker since 2014 and injuries to Ilkay Gundogan, Marco Reus and Antonio Rudiger ahead of the tournament.
Their opponents, meanwhile, only booked their ticket to the finals after a play-off, having finished third in their qualifying group behind Spain and Slovakia.
Unable to score in four matches against the two sides to deny them an automatic spot at the finals, the Ukrainians seemingly fit in well with the fall-guy narrative.
However, the idea that this should be a stroll for Die Mannschaft is hard to fathom given their varied travails since winning the World Cup.
After all, they gave up four points to the Republic of Ireland in qualifying, as well as losing to Poland, and have now been defeated in four of their last seven matches.
Moreover, their opponents’ form, in reaching France and since assuring their participation, suggests leaving the Germans and their backers yoke-bespattered or least badly shaken is well within their means…
Win, Lose or Draw?
The loss of Roma centre-half Rudiger to a cruciate-ligament injury in training has come as all the more of a blow to Germany given defensive frailties have been undermining them for the past two years.
Two of the three clean sheets they kept in qualifying were gimmes against Gibraltar, while Hungary are the sole nation they’ve kept at bay in five friendly internationals since, during which they’ve shipped three times to both England and Slovakia.
Ukraine’s complete inability to score against the better teams in their own qualifying section may persuade some punters to go along with the consensus that Die Mannschaft should still win comfortably.
However, Mykhaylo Fomenko’s men served notice that they’re capable of ripping through far sturdier rearguards than that of their foes in Lille back in May.
Putting four through Romania may sound no great shakes, but Tricolorii conceded just twice in reaching Euro 2016, suggesting Andriy Yarmolenko and friends have the chops to exploit the generous German backline.
It’s difficult to imagine the world champs keeping a clean sheet as a result, meaning foolhardy win to nil or handicap wagers on the favourites are sure to be thwarted.
It may seem like Ukraine’s best hopes lie in a pragmatic approach to this clash, but against rivals incapable of keeping clean sheets against Scotland, Republic of Ireland or Georgia inside the past year, having a go may be just as profitable.
Three of Germany’s last four friendlies and the same proportion of their previous quartet of competitive outings produced three strikes or more, with both sides finding the net.
A goal-rich encounter looks likely given their opponent’s last two games produced seven and four strikes respectively.
Who will do the damage?
Ukrainian poster boy Yarmolenko has been in fine form in the lead up to the tournament finding the net in five of his country’s last six games.
For the Germans, Mario Gomez has looked fairly clinical since returning to the fold after an absence of more than two years, netting three in four and rates a solid anytime alternative at 11/10.
Germany have put away three penalties in their last six matches, including two in their last trio of outings.