Slovakia v England, Monday June 20
St Etienne, Live on ITV, 8pm
The final matches in Group B take place on Monday evening when Russia take on Wales in Toulouse and England meet Slovakia in the Stade Geoffroy Guichard, St Etienne (8pm, ITV). For Slovakia there is only one combination of results that definitely knocks them out of the competition – a loss here, coupled with a win for Russia in the other match. If Slovakia win then they would definitely finish in the top two places in the group, and if they draw, they will have 4 points and almost certainly enough to qualify as one of the 4 best 3rd-placed teams. England already have 4 points from their games, so are all but guaranteed safe passage into the last 16. Win here and they finish top, a draw an they’ll top the group unless Wales beat Russia. Lose and it gets a bit complicated, but either way, it’s massively unlikely England would go out.
Slovakia – the story so far
All things considered, it’s been a pretty solid tournament for Slovakia, who many would have considered to be the weakest team in Group B. In their opening match against Wales they can consider themselves pretty unlucky to have come away with nothing from a game where they matched Wales throughout. In Marek Hamsik they have a player of genuine quality and his ability to unlock a defence with a pass or beat a keeper from distance were both on show against Russia.
In that game against the Russians, Slovakia led 2-0 at half time and were cruising. Only a late goal from Denis Glushakov briefly sparked Russia into life, but the reality of the situation was that Slovakia had comfortably controlled the game throughout.
Slovakia will look to keep things tight in this game and will hope to come away with a draw, however having conceded 3 goals already in their two matches against the two lesser teams in Group B, they know keeping a clean sheet against a resurgent England will be tricky.
England – the story so far
In many ways England’s Euro 2016 campaign has parallels with those of the hosts France. Late goals have defined both of England and France’s matches, both coaches have selection headaches with their squads, but both Roy Hodgson and Didier Deschamps will be delighted to be sitting top of their respective groups.
Hodgson was uncharacteristically brave in England’s game against Wales on Thursday when he removed the hapless Harry Kane and the hopeless Raheem Sterling at half time, replacing them with two strikers who subsequently scored. However if we’re being honest, neither Jamie Vardy or Daniel Sturridge had brilliant halves and goals aside, didn’t make entirely bulletproof cases for inclusion in the Slovakia game.
Sterling looks a certainty to miss out this one, with Vardy the most logical replacement, but in the past Vardy has struggled when playing out wide, so James Milner may get the nod instead. Hodgson might also decide to give Harry Kane a break upfront and start with Daniel Sturridge, but England don’t need to chase this one too hard, and it wouldn’t be a massive surprise to see Roy Hodgson revert to form and play a more conservative line up
My hunch is that though England are the better team, they won’t be chasing this one too hard, and Roy Hodgson may use this game as an opportunity to give playing time to a few of the fringe players. Slovakia may look to change the game late on if they’re suddenly in need of a result, in which case after a cagey opening 45, second half substitutions and goals could settle this one.
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