Slovakia and England will have contrasting plans ahead of their final group fixture at Stade Geoffroy-Guichard on Monday, June 20. This Group A encounter of Euro 2016 will have its bearing on who tops the group and who makes it to the knockouts.
It is an understatement to their abilities to pin Slovakia as an underdog but grouped with England and Wales, they weren’t definitely one of the favorites to progress. With a player like Marek Hamsik in their ranks, Slovakia can be a threat to any opposition on its day and their performances so far in Euro 2016 proves the point. They threatened to snatch a point against Wales but were undone by the reliance of the Welsh. However, Hamsik was in great form against Russia scoring one and assisting another to underline his importance to this team. Though Russia pulled one goal back later, the result was never in doubt. That leaves Slovakia with an unenviable task of picking at least a point against group favorites England in its final encounter.
Slovakia sit third in the table with three points but are in with a shot of making through the group. The dynamics are such that with a win they may even end up topping the group or with a loss tumble down the table and find at the bottom of the heap. A draw may prove just enough for picking up the third place but complacency can be their bane as was proven against Wales. Will they go for a win or play safe and pick the third spot – a dilemma worth many millions for the Slovakians ahead of this encounter.
England are sure to pick their place in the next round but topping the group will be top priority ahead of this match. As is their wont, England started with a draw against Russia in the opening encounter – a match many thought they should have won easily had it not been for their ineffective finishing. The glaring inefficiencies caught them on the wrong foot again as Wales threatened to derail their ambitions in the second match. But an inspired performance from a pair of substitutes – Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge – gave England a much needed win and a morale boosting performance at the right moment.
The win against Wales leaves them top of Group B with four points and in a very favorable situation. A draw will guarantee qualification but a win will see them top the group ahead of Wales and Slovakia. Although no English supporter would want to discuss this, a loss could see them jeopardizing their progress. But in the midst of a positive performance, there is no room for negativity in the England camp.
Slovakia picked up their first win in three matches and have an overall record of six wins and one loss in the last ten encounters. They crumbled under relentless pressure against Wales – which was their only loss in ten matches – but picked up their game against Russia.
England’s record coming into this match is pretty impressive with 11 wins from their last 14 encounters with losses only to Spain and Netherlands. If Hodgson can get his team composition correct, England will be a handful to Slovakia.
Key players and team news
Slovakia could start with the same team although there could be a toss-up between Adam Nemec and Ondrej Duda for the central striker role. Hamsik will still be key for Slovakia if they want to take something out of this match.
Roy Hodgson will be thankful that his blunders in team selection went unpunished against Wales. There is never a better time to start Jamie Vardy from the beginning than now. Same is the case to replace the pedestrian Raheem Sterling with Daniel Sturridge.
Slovakia have a suspect defence keeping only two clean sheets in their past ten matches but have scored an average of two goals per match in this period. Eight of these matches ended in producing over 2.5 goals.
England too are impressive with their scoring failing only once in the last ten matches to score a goal. With so much at stakes for Slovakia, England may enjoy the wide spaces offered by Slovakia and press for a win.
Both sides should end up finding the net but Slovakia could surprise many calculations and grab a point.
Draw at odds of 3.5 with Betfred.