The 48-year long wait for a major tournament will be fulfilled for Wales as they start their Euro 2016 campaign against Slovakia at the stunning Matmut Atlantique in Bordeaux. This Group B encounter will be played on Saturday, June 11.
Chris Coleman’s side has brought cheer to the whole nation after a successful qualification campaign. And to prolong their participation, his side will require a swift start to their campaign. One eye would be on the meeting against England and a win against Slovakia would offer a perfect start.
It may sound flattering but Wales are a side that depend heavily on their talisman Gareth Bale. The strength of his presence can be understood from the drop in Wales’ performance in his absence. Without Bale in three of their recent matches, Wales ended up winning none and losing two. During qualification Bale scored more than 60% of their goals and statistically Coleman’s side has been a one-player team.
But take nothing away from the rest of the group which speaks of proven names like Aaron Ramsey, Joe Allen and Ashley Williams. They boast of one of the best defensive records in qualification which makes them a team to watch. In a group that could prove to be wide open than anyone expected, Wales would like to keep surprises to a minimum and start positively.
Slovakia, on the other hand, isn’t any pushover as was evident in their performances in friendlies. Look no further than their stunning 3-1 win over world champions Germany to understand how dangerous they can be! If the Welsh boast of the sizzling presence of Bale, Slovakia have one of their own in Marek Hamsik who could prove a handful to any opposition.
Unfortunately, like Wales, they too are over-reliant on their star player whose absence from the playing XI drops their overall performance. A bad day for Hamsik could tick them off but luckily for the Slovaks, those have been few and far between.
Wales come into the tournament with just one win in their last five encounters. The defeats have come in Bale’s absence and hence Coleman would want his squad to erase those memories. Of more concern will be the defensive record with just one clean sheet in the last six matches.
Slovakia come with an impressive recent record with just one loss in the last ten encounters. They also have a penchant of scoring goals failing in just four of those ten matches to score a goal. But their defence is a worry with just three clean sheets in that period.
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The stage is set for Bale to carry his national side, which he has done admirably so far. The quality of Bale overshadows the squad but the presence of Ben Davies and Ashely Williams at the back is much more crucial to counter the threat of free-scoring Slovaks. Watch out for the dazzling Aaron Ramsey from the central midfield to dictate terms.
Hamsik will be the crucial playmaker for Slovakia but their midfield – barring Vladimir Weiss – could struggle to hold their own against Wales. Martin Skrtel gives them a solid look at the back along with Jan Durica but is prone for simple errors.
Wales have shown their defensive frailties in the recent games with just one clean sheet across six games. Their ability to score has seen them outpace their rivals, especially when Bale plays. The absence of an outright striker will not be a worry for Coleman with Ramsey and Bale offering him the best attacking outlets.
In six of its previous eight encounters, Slovakia has seen both teams score goals. Keeping clean sheets is a worry for the Slovaks which means there could be an open game in the offing. But their attack is a dangerous proposition. They have failed only twice in their last eight matches to score a goal and would be confident of matching the Welsh.
These two sides have met only twice before this encounter and both the games were high-scoring. Slovakia won the first encounter 5-1 in Cardiff while Wales returned the favor 5-2 in Slovakia more recently. Both teams rely heavily on their star players which could make or break their fortunes.
Both teams to score at odds of 2.2 with Betfred