Though both sides are already likely assured places in the Round of 16, Germany and Northern Ireland can improve their standing for the next level of Euro 2016 when they close out Group C play Tuesday at Parc des Princes in Paris.
Manager Joachim Low’s side, even after reaching a scoreless result with Poland in their most recent match, sit atop the group on goal differential with four points and would have to suffer a defeat to Northern Ireland and see the Polish claim victory over Ukraine in order to slip out of the top three.
Michael O’Neill’s Green and White Army can force a draw with the Germans and up their point total to four and reach the quarterfinals in their first Euro endeavor. However, a victory coupled with a Poland draw or loss would hand Northern Ireland a first-place finish and a weaker opponent in the knockout stage.
The Germans, who haven’t exactly put together their signature form in two matches thus far, are still major threats to reclaim a title that’s eluded them for 20 years. The defense is one of just four in the tournament to boast two shutouts, led by Bayern Munich's star goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, and yet another well-organized backline and midfield.
Defender Mats Hummels, who sat out the matchup with Ukraine, praised Germany’s defense against Poland and said it was a team effort.
"I was actually quite happy with the way it went - for me, personally, but also for the whole team, defensively," Hummels said to UEFA.com. "I think we defended quite well as a team. It's always important that it's not only the four of us at the back who defend, but that everybody does their share."
While the defense has shined, the attack has sputtered. Germany managed 18 shots against Ukraine and 15 on Poland, but it was not the type of effort many have come to expect from one of the tournament favorites. It seems inevitable that the likes of Thomas Muller, Julian Draxler and Andre Schurrle open their scoring accounts soon.
Low could also be looking a little farther down the road with his lineup and substitutions, especially given defender Jerome Boateng and midfielder’s Sami Khedira and Mesut Ozil are each one booking away from a suspension, all collected in the scoreless draw with Poland.
The Green and White Army are also coming off an astounding 2-0 victory over Ukraine, after a disappointing 1-0 letdown to the Poles. Defender Gareth McAuley and midfielder Niall McGinn netted Northern Ireland’s first two goals of the tournament, as it was far more aggressive in the attack when compared to the matchup with Poland. They unleashed 13 shots on Ukraine, compared just two in the tournament opener.
Prediction: Germany over Northern Ireland, 3-1
Kickoff: 12 p.m. ET
TV Channel: ESPN (USA); SRF zwei (Germany); RTE 2, BBC One UK, BBC Northern Ireland (Northern Ireland)
Live Stream: ESPN3