Euro 2016: Slovakia v England - Expert v Expert Preview


England are all but certain to qualify for the Euro 2016 last-16 but top spot in Group B is by no means safe.

After four points from two games Roy Hodgson’s men face a Slovakia side that bounced back from defeat to Wales to clinch victory over Russia.

Our experts Jonathan Wilson and Jakub Savara preview the clash ahead of Monday’s 8pm kick off.

 

TEAM NEWS

Jakub Savara on Slovakia: History beckons for Slovakia, and the Falcons know what they have to do against the much favoured England. The situation for Slovakia is clear. To achieve the pre-tournament objectives, gaining one point from this match should be sufficient.

Coach Jan Kozak is once again claiming that the key to the match involves “solving a puzzle”. He said: “We have to say that we have no such quality and depth as this opponent, but we will try to impose our style of play.”

He is preparing again some changes in the line-up, since England’s style is completely different to previous opponents Wales and Russia.

Jonathan Wilson on England: The strong probability is that Daniel Sturridge, after a stirring substitute performance against Wales that culminated in his winning goal, will start ahead of a jaded Harry Kane, who is perhaps paying the price for having played 50 games for Tottenham this season.

Raheem Sterling, the other player taken off at half-time, is likely to be dropped, but without a natural wide replacement the question is not only who comes in but whether Roy Hodgson switches from 4-3-3 to a diamond. It seems likely Jamie Vardy will play, initially wide left in a 4-3-3, which seems Hodgson’s preferred formation against sides who will sit deep against England.

 

FORM

Savara: Beating Russia certainly gave a huge boost to the team and confidence of players is high. Everyone knows what will bring Slovakia to the next stage, and each player who´ll appear in Kozak´s line up will do everything to achieve this goal.

The match against Russia was tense, and nobody wanted to open up any space. The factor of the first goal was very important, and then Marek Hamsik’s superb strike before half-time was crucial, because the players seemed to be exhausted in the last ten minutes of the match.

If that happens again then England could strike, as they did against Wales.

Wilson: Hodgson expressed his frustration this week with the polarised nature of reaction to England national games. There are some saying England can win the tournament, others deriding Hodgson as a confused buffoon who got lucky.

The truth is rather simpler. England have played fairly well in both games so far and with more luck, less panic and greater ruthlessness would have won both comfortably. Perhaps there is a lack of incisiveness against teams who pack men behind the ball, but England had far more chances in both games and found a way to four points. It’s not brilliant, but it’s pretty much fine. 

 

KEY MAN

Savara: I can’t choose one. I see the team performance as the most important factor for Slovakia in this match.

The team’s leader Marek Hamsik together with captain and defensive leader Martin Skrtel will set the tone, but everyone has to perform at their maximum here. The defenders will have a lot of work to do.

Wilson: One of the complaints about Hodgson is that he supposedly doesn’t know what his best team is, as though he should have known his first XI in the autumn and stuck to it, ignoring Eric Dier, Dele Alli and Marcus Rashford.

International management is the art of balancing a coherent plan with fluctuating form and fitness and what Hodgson has done is develop two clear formations over the past two years. Daniel Sturridge may have been the 23rd man picked for the squad but his liveliness against Wales means he’s now probably the most significant striker.

 

SURE THING

Savara: A strong Slovak defence will not give many chances to the England players early on, so I consider half time draw as a good option for this match at 2.00

Wilson: This feels like a game that will follow the pattern of the first two, with England dominating possession, peppering the Slovakia box and winning lots of corners. So, again, backing England to win more corners while giving Slovakia a handicap of three at 1.72 looks value.

LONG SHOT

Savara: I see after a goalless first half, the exact same situation in the second half, so I´ll take HT/FT - Draw/Draw at 4.60.

Wilson: Sooner or later, England are going to get a corner in the right place and when they do, one of the centre-backs will surely get on the end of it. Both Gary Cahill and Chris Smalling are 12.00 to score at any time.

 

SCORE PREDICTION 

Savara: Slovakia 0-0 England at 6.30.

Wilson: Slovakia 0-2 England at 8.00.