World Champions Germany will look to continue their quest for a continental crown when they take on the dangerous Slovakian side in Euro 2016. This round of 16 clash will be played at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy on Sunday, June 26.
Germany came to France with a cloud of questions hovering on their favorites tag – thanks to their stuttering recent form. Despite those questions on their form, Germany were expected to top Group C consisting of Poland, Northern Ireland and Ukraine. They did top the group but not without experiencing difficulties. Joachim Low’s decision to play Mario Gotze as a false nine impeded their cutting edge in the final third against Ukraine and Poland. While they were saved by Manuel Neur and Jerome Boateng against Ukraine, the eventual 2-0 margin flattered even their supporters. Their struggles continued against Poland – a game they drew only because of Poland’s reluctance to convert the chances and win full points. Low’s reluctance to field an out and out striker subsided in the next match. Mario Gomez started against Northern Ireland and starred for them with a goal. But the Germans were limited to a single goal which was enough to bring the top spot for them.
Slovakia had to fight through a tough Group B which had Wales, England and Russia qualifying in third position. They started well against Wales but had to bow to the relentless pressure of Gareth Bale’s side in a narrow 2-1 defeat. In a game they had to win, they came storming back into contention with a 2-1 win over Russia. The win was not without some nervous final minutes which were navigated deftly. And when they needed at least a point against England, Slovakia played deep and thwarted England’s attacks from breaching their defence. A goalless draw was enough to propel them into knockouts as one of the best third-placed teams. For a side that depends largely on the skills of Marek Hamsik, Slovakia can be a really stubborn side difficult to break down at the back. With Germany struggling to break such teams, don’t be surprised if Slovakia tries to replicate the same strategy.
Germany are on a four match unbeaten streak but have lost four of their last ten encounters. They are yet to concede a goal in the tournament while scoring just three in the group phase. Interestingly just one of those goals have come from a striker.
Slovakia lost just once in their last ten encounters but have won just five of them. Their journey in France has been a mixed bag with a win, a draw and a loss making their palette.
Key players and team news
There are question marks on the participation of Jerome Boateng who is struggling with a calf injury. Gomez should be a no-brainer starter as the lone striker unless Low wants to revert to his pet ‘false nine’ system. That could see Julian Draxler pushed out for a role on the bench with Gotze moving to the left wing.
Slovakia have concerns on the availability of right-back Peter Pekarik and left winger Robert Mak. The 4-5-1 system that was successfully used to frustrate and thwart England could make a reappearance. Vladimir Weiss and Hamsik will be their marksmen on the counters.
Germany have not conceded a single goal in their last four encounters. In only four of their previous ten encounters, both teams have scored. Goals are at a premium for them currently but the presence of Gomez should boost their hopes. Backing Gomez to find the net anytime in the match could be an interesting bet.
Three of Slovakia’s last ten encounters have ended goal less. Interestingly, all the remaining seven matches have seen both teams score goals. Backing both sides to score a goal is another bet worthy of a look. Hamsik continues to shoulder the burden of his entire nation. As was evident against Russia, if he gets going, Slovakia is a difficult proposition. Backing Hamsik to find the back of the net is another intriguing bet.
Germany’s quality on any other day should be enough to swat aside Slovakia. But the World Champions are struggling themselves which sets this contest up nicely. The Germans should still edge out their opponents.
Hamsik to be anytime goal scorer at odds of 5.0 with Coral.