Marcus Braddock previewsIn my last preview article for the game against Wales, I predicted a 1-1 draw and with just a couple of minutes to go I was quite unhappy to be correct. Then England went and scored courtesy of Sturridge so I had the familiar feeling of being wrong mixed with a bit of elation. I also remember saying that the strike force of Kane, Lallana and Sterling could do with being replaced but I can’t really take any credit because most people said that at least Sterling should be replaced. In fairness to Adam Lallana, he was much improved in the Wales game and even supplied an excellent cross that Raheem Sterling brilliantly missed.
In both of their games, Slovakia have looked more than capable of going through to the next level of the competition. They looked the better side against Russia for most of the game and the goal that Marek Hamsik scored was an utterly sublime work of football art. They have a face most of us recognise at the back, the ever fortunately unpunished Martin Skirtel who is a threat to anyone who prefers to remain upright and healthy. Joking aside, Skrtel is not an insignificant presence, the Slovakia team is packed with footballers who ply their trades in the upper reaches of European football. There really are very few easy games these days in international football, better players can move freely to the bigger leagues in the world and get vital top class experience. I see more games like this in the future against “so called” weaker nations whose manager’s play to their strengths and players have a massive desire to become heroes. Slovakia’s strengths do seem to be pace and occasions of top class quick passing.
What a difference a win makes! Having beaten Wales we can now move forward and eventually win the whole thing! Joking aside, some relatively obvious changes were made by Roy Hodgson during the Wales game which worked out well for us. Hopefully he will have the sense to keep those changes and allow the players they replaced to rest on the bench, harbouring a desire to do better when we need them to. I'm still not too sure to make of the Goal we conceded against the Welsh, most observers seem to put it down to a mistake but watching the replay makes me wonder if Bale used the wall as an obstruction rather than blocking. The replay from behind the goal shows that the ball emerges from seemingly nowhere above the wall and is incredibly quick. Or maybe I'm just a bit biased.
I've not got one right so far, albeit from just the two games. I can’t see this being a simple game for us, we may be able to top the group with a win but Slovakia are only one win from qualification and I'm sure they noted a few of our frailties to work on in training in the Russia game so I think Slovakia will be well motivated, certainly better motivated than Russia will be against Wales. But even if the worst does happen, we may have enough to go through as a 3rd placed qualifier.
Hopefully, that won’t happen but I think I'll hedge my bets again and go for a draw and a win for the Welsh which will see us qualify in second place.
Prediction: England 1-1 Slovakia