After a poor World Cup, England’s coach Roy Hodgson turned to youth, and the introduction of a host of young talent led to some fluent performances and an impressive run of ten successive victories as England qualified at the top of Group E. In their recent friendlies, they have shown some promise against top European teams, beating France and Germany, but have also lost to Spain and the Netherlands.
Slovakia qualified for the European Championships for the first time in their history as an independent nation, largely thanks to six consecutive victories, during which they beat Spain 2-1 and conceded only two goals. Though they struggled, they finally qualified from Group C by beating Luxembourg 4-2. Since qualifying, they have not lost a game and have even beaten world champions Germany in a friendly match.
England vs. Slovakia – H2H Stats
England and Slovakia have met three times since Slovakia became an independent nation, and England has won all three encounters.
Their first game occurred during the qualifying tournament for Euro 2004 when the two sides were drawn together in the same group. Slovakia took the lead in Bratislava through Szilard Nemeth, but late goals from Michael Owen and David Beckham gave the visitors a 2-1 victory. Slovakia also took the lead in the return game at Wembley in June 2003, but again England prevailed 2-1 thanks to a double from Owen.
Their latest meeting was a much more one-sided affair. Wayne Rooney scored twice, and Emile Heskey and Frank Lampard also scored to give England a 4-0 win in a friendly at Wembley in March 2009.
Hodgson’s squad contains five strikers and four more players whose best position is just behind the strikers, so it seems likely that he stick to his favoured 4-4-2 diamond formation. Raheem Sterling may offer some pace and width, but he is not certain to start, and England is likely to play a possession based game in the central areas, hoping to unlock the Slovak defence.
Two of Slovakia’s best players are Liverpool centre-half Martin Skrtl and Milan’s defensive midfielder Juraj Kucka, so it was no surprise that their qualifying campaign was built on a solid base of a strong defence and a cautious midfield. They proved adept at shackling big name players and are likely to do the same in this game, sitting deep, hoping that England over-commit and hitting them on the counter-attack.
England vs. Slovakia Odds & Betting Markets
This is the final Group B game for both of these sides, so will be influenced by what has happened earlier in the tournament, but even if they need to win this match, Slovakia is unlikely to vary their tactics, particularly as the England defence will give them plenty of opportunities on the counter.
England’s lack of wide players, in particular, could be a problem. Their play will largely be funnelled down the centre of the pitch, which should be relatively straightforward for Slovakia to deal with, and if the English full-backs push on to offer more width, there will be space for the Slovaks to exploit.
I’m confident that Slovakia can frustrate England, but do they have enough firepower to take advantage of any chances that come their way? Well, their star playmaker Marek Hamsik of Napoli scored five times in their qualifying campaign, showing that he can find the net as well as create chances, and the English defence looks particularly weak this tournament.
England may not need to win this match to go through, but they aren’t particularly adept at seeing out draws, and at the available odds.
I think it’s worth backing Slovakia at 5.0 with BetVictor to cause an upset.
Odds for Winning Margin
As Slovakia seems to be a good bet to win the match, we can also try to profit by backing them in the Winning Margin market. Since their game plan will be based around soaking up the pressure and hitting their opponents on the break, they are unlikely to spend much time in the England half and if they were to take the lead they are likely to become even more defensive.
I can’t see Slovakia trying to increase a lead, so it’s worth betting them to win by one goal at 7.5 with Bet365.
Odds for Half Time-Full Time
England is likely to start strongly, and the first half will be all about Slovakia keeping their opponents out. But if their plan works, England are likely to become frustrated the longer the game goes on and over-commit in search of a goal, leaving themselves vulnerable at the back in the second half.
So it makes sense to back the Draw/Slovakia option in the Half-Time/Full-Time market at 11.0 with Ladbrokes.