So the first game of Euro 2016 for Northern Ireland didn't go so well. Stuart Dallas saw the pitch, coming on as a halftime substitute, but Norn Iron's defense-first game plan resulted in very little possession and no offensive threat whatsoever against Poland. They played solid enough defense, but when your opponent has 60% of the ball and 100% of the chances, you're not going to walk away with points.
That needs to change against Ukraine on Thursday night in Lyon. Kyle Lafferty will need more support up top against Ukraine's porous back four, and a more-attacking lineup could see Stuart Dallas and the flammable Will Grigg inserted into the lineup earlier on.
I mean, these fans deserve some goals, right?
Ukraine lost to Germany in the first round of matches by a score of 2-0 and never really looked to threaten their opponent either, though they probably looked better than Northern Ireland did. Germany is the clear favorite in this group, if not in the entire tournament, and goals from Shkodran Mustafi and Bastian Schweinsteiger put them comfortably in the driver's seat, but Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka provided a few threats, and they'll be eager to score on Thursday in hopes of keeping their tournament alive.
With Germany and Poland looking the likely favorites to move on, Northern Ireland need all three points against Ukraine to maintain a chance of making the knockout stage. They face Germany in their third match, and if Die Mannschaft top Poland, they'll have already clinched their spot atop the group... so a point or three might be available?
It'll take a miracle in that third match if the Green and White Army want to advance to the knockout stage, but they have to take care of business against Ukraine first.
McNair ⬅️ Dallas ➡️ #POLNIR— Northern Ireland (@NorthernIreland) June 12, 2016
Here's hoping Leeds United's lone representative gets the start this time and is part of delivering the win in Lyon.
Stuart Dallas' Northern Ireland v Ukraine
Euro 2016 Group C
Parc OL, Lyon, France
Thursday, June 16, 2016
9:00a PT / 12:00p ET / 5:00p BT
Northern Ireland's possible Starting XI
McGovern, Cathcart, McAuley, Evans, McLaughlin, McNair, Baird, Norwood, Ferguson, Davis, Lafferty.
Ukraine's possible Starting XI
Pyatov, Fedetskiy, Khacheridi, Rakitskiy, Shevchuk, Sydorchuk, Stepanenko, Yarmolenko, Kovalenko, Konoplyanka, Zozulya.
Northern Ireland 13/2
The Green and White Army knows that if they don't get points here, the tournament is all but over. Again optimistic that they'll find the back of the net and continue their stalwart defense. 1-0. Goal for Lafferty.
(P.S. WILL GRIGG IS ON FIRE, RIGHT? PLAY HIM)