WILLIE DUNCAN (@Willie_Duncan) runs the rule over Group B’s clash between winless Russia and Slovakia from Lille on Wednesday afternoon.
Russia v Slovakia | Wednesday 14.00 | BBC1
I wasn’t too impressed when I pulled out Slovakia in my office sweepstake ahead of the big kick-off on Friday and Saturday’s dismal defeat for Jan Kozak’s men against Wales has given me even fewer reasons to be cheerful.
Maybe I’m being too optimistic, but I think that there’s a chance that Slovakia might well prolong my interest in the sweepstake for just a wee while longer by getting a positive result from their match against Russia on Wednesday afternoon.
Leonid Slutsky’s men, to paraphrase Shania Twain, didn’t impress me at all at the weekend and I thought that the Russians proved the old adage that if you can’t be good, you had better be lucky as they scraped a point against England by virtue of Vasili Berezutsky’s last-gasp equaliser.
In the game against Wales, there were glimpses – far too infrequent, mind you – when Slovakia looked like the side that thumped Germany 3-1 in a friendly fixture before this tournament got underway and it wouldn’t surprise me if Adam Nemec and Ondrej Duda managed to do enough from the bench to merit a place in the starting line-up.
Slovakia, too, had gone eight matches without defeat before they were undone by Gareth Bale and Hal Robson-Kanu at the weekend and they can be trusted to shrug off that disappointing defeat and bounce back in style here.
Igor Akinfeev was at his best against England, but the Russian defence creaked continuously throughout and if Slovakia – with star man Marek Hamsik – can be slick rather than sluggish, they are certainly capable of picking up a vital victory from their second group game.
Kozac’s charges are outstanding value at 5/2 (Netbet) to claim their first ever victory in the European Championships by beating Russia.
However, Russia will be stuffy and stubborn opponents and I’m going to take the coward’s way out by snapping up the 27/20 (Netbet) quotes on offer for Jan Kozak’s men in the Draw No Bet market ahead of Wednesday’s key clash.
Russia v Slovakia – Slovakia draw no bet (27/20 Netbet)