Euro 2020: Slovakia face Sweden to secure a spot in the last 16 for a second time

Sweden take on Slovakia at Saint Petersburg on Friday after a hard fought goalless draw against Spain last week.

Swedish national football team; Credit : Twitter/@svenskfotboll
By Sreejith C R | Jun 18, 2021 | 3 Min Read follow icon Follow Us

Sweden will face Slovakia in their second match of Euro 2020 at Saint Petersburg on Friday. Both teams are coming to the match on the back of positive results in their tournament opener last week. Sweden earned a hard fought goalless draw against Group E favourites Spain. Meanwhile, Slovakia beat Poland 2-1 to get themselves into a very good position to qualify for the knockout stage.

Sweden has failed to reach the knockout stages of the tournament since 2004. But the Nordic nation would be optimistic about going through to the round of 16 this time around after seeing off former champions Spain in their first game. Jane Andersson’s side displayed exemplary defensive discipline to prevent the 2012 champions from getting the winner. Manchester United’s central defender Victor Lindelof received UEFA’s man of the match award for his gritty performance against Spain.

Blagult could have secured an unlikely winner at the other end from the two chances they created. Real Sociedad’s Alexander Isak was at the thick of both chances. The 21-year-old hit the post once and created a chance for strike partner Marcus Berg, only to miss the target from three yards.

Andersson is likely to go with a more attacking line-up at the Krestovsky stadium. RB Leipzig midfielder Emil Forsberg may be pushed up a little bit to support Isak and Berg. Therefore Viktor Claesson might come in at the left flank. Juventus’ Dejan Kulusevski and Bologna’s Mattias Savanbeg have been cleared to play after testing positive for COVID-19 before the tournament started. Kulusevski is an automatic selection at the right flank if he is match fit. The back four is likely to be unchanged.

Can Slovakia book a spot in the last 16?

Slovakia got the better of Poland courtesy of Milan Skiniar’s goal. Stefan Tarkovic’s side got the lead through Wojciech Szczesny’s own goal before Grzegorz Krychowiak leveled the score for Poland. But the Inter Milan defender Skriniar got the winner from a superb volley on the turn from 20-yards out to seal the three points for Slovakia.

Tarkovic’s side can become the fourth team to book a spot in the last 16 of Euro 2020 if they could beat Sweden. Meanwhile, the veterans who played at the 2010 FIFA World Cup – Vladimir Weiss, Peter Pekarik, Juraj Kucka, Dusan Kuciak and the captain Marek Hamsik still continue to do the job for the team.

Hamsik made his 127th international appearance last week. The 24-year-old former Napoli midfielder is still their most important player. His ability to convert half chances into goals and create opportunities for the forwards are going to be crucial for Slovakia’s chances of getting a positive result on Friday. Robert Mak and Lukas Haraslin are likely to occupy the wings with Ondrej Duda playing as the false number nine.

Meanwhile, Defender Denis Vavaro has tested positive for COVID-19 and is isolated. Therefore Tarkovic will be keeping his fingers crossed hoping that the other members of the team are not infected.

Both teams have met each other five times before with Sweden coming out on top twice whereas other three encounters ended in a draw with the two coming recently. Sweden certainly looks the better side going into the match at Saint Petersburg. Andersson’s side are like a well drilled machine who play like a team and are not depended on individual stars.

Meanwhile, Slovakia will be full of confidence after their victory against Poland and would go into the match brimming with self-belief, hoping to reach the knockout stages of the European championship for a second consecutive time.

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