Competition: European Championship 2016
Fixture: Wales v Slovakia
Date: June 11, 2016
Venue: Stade Matmut-Atlantique, Bordeaux
Kick off time: 5 pm GMT
Wales will take on Slovakia in Group B as the two sides open their respective campaigns at the European Championship in France. With England and Russia also featuring in the same group, a win for either side will see them take a significant advantage.
Wales’ form: W-L-D-L-L
Chris Coleman’s side are coming into the European Championship finals on the backs of some poor form. They were taken down by Sweden in their latest friendly in Stockholm by three goals without reply. Zlatan Ibrahimovic ran the show on the occasion as Gareth Bale came off the bench to feature in the final 25 minutes of the game for Wales.
The team had sealed qualification to the Euros with a 2-0 win over Andorra at Cardiff with Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale getting on the score-sheet. The side played a friendly in November and a couple in March this year.
They were beaten by Netherlands, who failed to make it to France, 2-3 courtesy of a brace from Arjen Robben. A late goal from Simon Church helped earn a draw against Northern Ireland on March 24 before Andriy Yarmolenko’s strike sunk Wales on March 28.
Slovakia’s form: D-D-W-W-D
Slovakia are undefeated in their last five matches. The side managed to stun Germany 3-1 at Augsburg in the run-up to the Euros. Mario Gomez had given the reigning world champions the lead with a 13th minute penalty before Marek Hamsik equalized for Slovakia.
They took the lead soon after with Michal Duris putting them ahead before the break. Slovakia extended their lead even further with Juraj Kucka scoring soon after half-time.
Their latest friendly against Northern Ireland ended goalless on June 4. Prior to beating Germany on May 29, the side had also downed Georgia 3-1. Slovakia drew their friendly matches against Latvia and Ireland in March.
Key Players and Team News
Bale and Ramsey will form the attacking threat for Coleman’s side. Bale is likely to be afforded a free role with Ramsey in central midfield. The Arsenal midfielder has not had the best season with his club but he was largely played out of position by Arsene Wenger. He will look to have a lot more impact with Coleman starting him in his preferred position. Andy King, the man who has winners’ medals in the top three divisions in England with Leicester City is likely to play an advanced midfield role just behind Bale.
Joe Ledley will be fit to start after recovering from a broken leg in midfield as well. Swansea skipper Ashley Williams will form the bedrock of their defense with James Chester, Ben Davies and Neil Taylor forming the back four.
Coleman usually has his troops line up in a 5-4-1 formation. The wingers usually find a lot of space in attack while the midfielders are also encouraged to get forward. The full backs slot into the midfield when the side have the ball and the three central defenders occupy the space behind leaving little space to exploit for the opposition.
Jan Kozak does not have a fixed formation for his side and they usually lineup in a 5-3-2 or a 4-5-1 formation. He prefers to have a lot of bodies in the middle of the park. There are usually a couple of defensive midfielders and two or three advanced midfielders plying behind a solitary striker. The attacking midfielders sometimes move wide with the ball but there is no particular trend there.
Depending on the quality of the opposition and their lineup, Kozak usually sacrifices an attacking midfielder to include an extra central defender in a 5-3-2 formation. The full-backs – Peter Pekarik and Dusan Svento – do a lot of running.
Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel is a big player for them but he does not have the best disciplinary record. He will need to keep a cool head and play intelligently on Saturday.
Napoli midfielder Hamsik, who formed up a brilliant partnership with Gonzalo Higuain at his club this year, will lead this team and is arguably their best player. He has the tools to have a damaging impact on any opposition. Hamsik possesses the ability to find the killer pass as well as to find the back of the net from distance and will be a big threat to the opposition.
Looking at how the two sides are likely to line up, a draw (17/10 at bet365) could be on the cards. However, the kind of individual brilliance that Wales possess in the final third of the pitch could come into play. Bale demonstrated just how good he is in the Champions League final and one would expect the former Tottenham man to find the back of the net on Saturday (7/5 at bet365).