Poland - Northern Ireland Preview: Both sides after maiden Euro wins in Group C's opener

With goal-scorers Robert Lewandowski and Kyle Lafferty to be on show, this will certainly be an exciting game in an attacking sense.

Poland - Northern Ireland Preview: Both sides after maiden Euro wins in Group C's opener
Photo: VAVEL UK

Two contrasting reputations clash in Nice tomorrow as Poland, expected to qualify from Group C, face a Northern Ireland side who no-one is expecting anything from.

However, whether the expectations of both will be fulfilled remains to be seen. The Poles have been disappointing in recent weeks and without Robert Lewandowski appear lacklustre, as was seen in the goalless draw with Lithuania. Meanwhile, Northern Ireland haven't qualified for Euro 2016 for nothing. 

Biało-czerwoni are the favourites; the Green and White Army are the underdogs. But is that how it will play out?

Facts don't cover the Poles in glory

Despite their status coming into the game, Poland's record at the Euros is appalling. This is the third successive edition they have qualified for, but they are yet to win a single game at the tournament - drawing three and losing three of their six played so far, scoring just three goals.

This culminated in exits at the group stages in both 2008 and 2012, with the latter particularly disappointing as they co-hosted the big event with the Ukraine.

This time around, the reputation of Lewandowski precedes them and makes them one to watch out for. However, while he is certainly a world class talent, whether or not the rest of the team can raise their game to match his is unclear.

Poland could do real damage in France this summer. However, things could certainly go the other way too and they could end up as just another one-man team that ultimately disappointed.

New experience for the Northern Irish

On the other side of things; Northern Ireland are preparing to feature in their first ever European Championship. This summer will be their first taste of major tournament football since the FIFA World Cups in 1982 and 1986 and, with no expectations weighing them down, they can play completely free of pressure.

That freedom allowed them to finish top of their qualifying group, ahead of fellow qualifiers for this summer; Romania and Hungary.

Now, the Green and White Army travel to France with an even bigger one behind them, with the fans simply unable to wait as they prepare to watch their country in action, ready to soak in the atmosphere.

They may not be able to match Poland's world-class striker in Lewandowski, but they certainly boast a similarly prolific saviour in Kyle Lafferty, whose seven goals in qualifying were instrumental in Northern Ireland topping Group F.

Lafferty's goals will be key for Northern Ireland this summer. (Photo: Charles Mcquillan/Getty Images)
Lafferty's goals will be key for Northern Ireland this summer. (Photo: Charles Mcquillan/Getty Images)

Attacking concerns

Lafferty, however, is a doubt for tomorrow's game with a groin injury picked up in training in midweek.

Michael O'Neill has played down it's seriousness, saying he pulled out of the session simply as a precaution, and on Friday pictures of him back in full training will have brought huge sighs of relief from those of a green and white persuasion.

For Poland, winger Kamil Grosicki is highly unlikely to be fit for his country's opening fixture, with Slawomir Peszko expected to take his place.

Speaking to UEFA this week, Peszko stated that he is "ready" to be called upon, adding that manager Adam Nawałka calls him "the man for special occasions" and that he "like[s]" the role.