Poland's talented strike duo can hurt world champions Germany, says Gary Lim
Germany favourites, but the Lewandowski-Milik partnership can punish their brittle defence
GERMANY v POLAND
(Tomorrow, 2.50am, Singtel TV Ch 142 & StarHub TV Ch 220 - Eleven EURO)
The Stade de France is readying itself for a stellar collision.
The Germany-Poland football rivalry is one steeped in history and soaked in emotion.
This is one high-stakes encounter, with the winners guaranteed passage to the knockout stages of Euro 2016.
Between the two countries, there is no love lost.
Eight years ago, prior to their Euro 2008 clash, Poland coach Leo Beenhakker had to apologise after a local newspaper depicted an image of him holding the severed heads of Germany coach Joachim Loew and then captain Michael Ballack.
Even if their previous encounters were as one-sided as they come, the bad blood never let up.
Now, though, Poland can sense a football revival.
They came to France having broken the hex of having never beaten the Germans - they finally defeated them for the first time during a Euro 2016 qualifier.
They have striker extraordinaire, Robert Lewandowski.
They also have Arkadiusz Milik, the 22-year-old Ajax Amsterdam forward touted as one of the world's most exciting young strikers who looks set to follow in the footsteps of his illustrious compatriot.
Together, they have been mentioned in some quarters as potentially the most lethal strike duo in the tournament.
They will spearhead a Polish side set to test the durability of a suspect German defence in Paris tomorrow morning (Singapore time).
Adam Nawalka's side will go into battle confident of their own chances and their ability to puncture the resistance of their deadly rivals.
Lewandowski finished top scorer of the Euro 2016 qualifiers (13 goals) and the German Bundesliga (30 goals).
The Bayern Munich ace knows many of tomorrow's opponents like the back of his hand, having plied his trade in Germany for the last six years.
His inability to get off the mark in Poland's opening 1-0 win over Northern Ireland was an exception rather than the rule.
Milik, operating in a slightly more withdrawn role than Lewandowski, took up the slack.
He fired in the only goal of the game to get Poland off to a winning start.
Germany, too, will remember Milik, who carved his name in their memory on that fateful night in Warsaw two years ago.
It was his opening goal which set Poland on their way to a famous 2-0 victory - it remains their only win over their neighbours in 20 attempts.
Germany's Loew will have a lot more to deal with than his infamous scratch-and-sniff habit.
Despite beating Ukraine 2-0 in their opening group match, they looked fragile at the back.
The makeshift central defensive partnership of Shkodran Mustafi and Jerome Boateng didn't work out well.
Fullbacks Jonas Hector and Benedikt Hoewedes didn't appear convincing as well against quick wingers Andriy Yarmolenko and Yevhen Konoplyanka.
Centre back Mats Hummels took his place alongside Boateng during training on Tuesday, and Loew will be hoping that he is fit enough to replace Mustafi and restore confidence in their backline.
The Poles smell vulnerability in the world champions.
A thriller in Paris awaits.
5 Big games over the past 42 years
- Germany 1 Poland 0
(World Cup 1974)
Arguably the best Poland team of all-time missed out on the World Cup final despite winning five of their six group games in Germany.
Poland eliminated England in qualifying and in Grzegorz Lato had the top scorer in the competition, but German legend Gerd Mueller scored the only goal for the hosts, who went on to win the World Cup for a second time.
- Germany 0 Poland 0
(World Cup 1978)
A stalemate followed in Argentina four years later with Poland earning some measure of revenge by topping the initial group. However, both sides were ultimately eliminated in the second group stage.
- Germany 1 Poland 0
(World Cup 2006)
Germany approached a second World Cup on home soil with much more trepidation, yet Juergen Klinsmann's young side thrilled a nation despite low expectations after their campaign was kickstarted by Oliver Neuville's stoppage time winner in Dortmund to send the Poles packing at the group stage.
- Germany 2 Poland 0
Another major championship meeting between the two and more German success as they comfortably won their Group B opener in Klagenfurt. The result was even more painful for Poland as it was Polish-born Lukas Podolski who scored both German goals.
- Poland 2 Germany 0
(Euro 2016 qualifying)
After 18 attempts over 81 years, Poland finally beat the newly crowned world champions for the first time in November 2014.
A 60,000 capacity crowd in Warsaw went wild as second-half goals from Ajax striker Arkadiusz Milik and Sebastian Mila sealed a victory which put them on course to reach a third consecutive Euros.
They plan to attack
Northern Ireland need to come out of their shell in tomorrow morning's (Singapore time) Group C clash against Ukraine if their first major tournament appearance for 30 years is not to end in an anti-climax.
Both sides are promising a more attacking approach than in their opening games, where the Irish went down 1-0 to Poland and Ukraine were dispatched 2-0 by Germany.