Two teams looking for their first win of Euro 2016 face-off in the second round of Group B encounter when Russia and Slovakia come head-to-head at the Stade Pierr-Mauroy in Lille on Wednesday, June 15.
Russia surprised even their most ardent fans by snatching a point out of nowhere against England. Although England were guilty of being lackluster, the injury time goal was enough for Russia to upset the calculations. Coming out with a point from a game they were expected to lose must have lifted their confidence by several notches.
Injuries to key players ahead of the tournament cast several doubts on their chances but manager Leonid Slutsky had the last laugh when he masterminded the escape against England with a 1-1 draw. Russia held England for almost three-fourths of the game and the suspect defence must have gained some confidence from that display.
With chances up for grabs even for the best third-placed teams to progress to knock-outs, the point gained against England could prove vital for Russia in the final analysis. If they can build from there and surprise Slovakia, it could more-or-less settle their place in the second round.
Slovakia on the other hand are coming off a hard fought match against Wales that they eventually lost 2-1. Marek Hamsik was unlucky not to have found the net early, thanks to a last ditch block while Gareth Bale’s wonder free-kick goal had ‘goal keeper error’ written all over it. Slovakia came back through Ondrej Duda but Wales eventually picked up full points through a Robson-Kanu goal.
A second consecutive loss at this stage would almost end the campaign for Slovakia which makes the contest all the more important for them. Loss to Wales ended their eight match unbeaten streak and the team should plan to channelize the hurt to better things against Russia.
With everything to play for, this encounter promises to be a highly tactical one. The defenses of both Russia and Slovakia are not too competent at shutting teams down which means a multi-goal thriller in the offing for the spectators.
After the first game draw, Russia remain without a win in their last four matches but are consistent with their scoring shoes. They have scored in 11 consecutive games now – a run of games stretching back to September 2015.
Slovakia have lost just two of their last 21 matches while winning 14 of those. But their recent form is slightly patchy with just two wins in their last six matches. They have happy memories of a 3-1 victory over Germany while the draws by lowly ranked Latvia and Northern Ireland cast a question mark on their consistency.
Key players and team news
Russia could possibly stick to the same team that frustrated England and won a precious point for Slutsky. Roman Neustadter made his competitive debut against England and was impressive for the Russians. Aleksandr Kokorin with his pace and Artem Dzyuba with his height could pose problems for the Slovakians.
The goal-scorer Duda would be pushing for a starting berth in the Slovakian side while Michal Duris was disappointing as the lone striker and could be replaced by Adam Nemec. There would be spotlight on Marek Hamsik who is expected to shoulder the burden of scoring goals. Elsewhere there could be a place for Viktor Pecovsky in the starting lineup in place of Patrik Hrosovsky.
Slovakia have found the back of the net in seven of their last nine matches but have failed to keep a clean sheet in all these nine matches as well. Both teams scoring goals is very common in matches involving Slovakia.
Russia have a happy scoring record too – 11 consecutive matches, but have conceded in five of their last six matches too. In the eight matches played between these two sides, Russia lead the record with three wins and two losses. The last meeting was almost two years back in a friendly that ended in a 1-0 win for Russia. How much they would love a repeat of that result!
The last six matches between these sides had seen under 2.5 goals scored with the last four ending under 1.5 goals. With so much riding on the result of this game, don’t be surprised if there is a high-scoring encounter.
Both teams to score at odds of 2.0 with Betfred