Slovakia vs Spain | Wednesday 23rd June 2020, 17:00 | ITV
Group E is still wide open which is a bit of a surprise as La Roja had been expected to breeze through a group full of grit and determination but relatively low on quality, but Luis Enrique’s men now face a real fight to even make it into the last-16 after drawing their opening two games against Sweden and Poland.
Slovakia make the journey to Seville siting 2nd one point and one place ahead of Spain knowing that fate is still in their own hands needing only a draw to seal progression, with their opening-day victory over Poland meaning that they could not be caught by them. Spain also have it all in their own hands as they know a victory will take them through to the knockouts. A draw would see them finish third, but that result coupled with a Poland win over Sweden would mean an early exit.
Slovakia know they need a performance to guarantee them a place in the knockout stages and manager Stefan Tarkovic has already said that his team must play above themselves and produce a miracle. I think they could well adopt a very similar approach to how we saw Sweden and Poland set up against Spain, with men behind the ball and defend deep, which should make for an interesting encounter. An early goal for either side will make it a very different game but I am not sure we will see that here.
A combination of wasteful Spanish finishing and excellent defending by Sweden and Poland have seen Spain fail to win either of their opening two games despite going off as clear favourites at 1/3 and 4/11, they are currently best priced at 3/13 to claim victory with Slovakia at 37/2 and the draw at 31/5.
No side had a greater xG after two games than Spain with 5.64, only two sides have had more shots than Spain, only Denmark have had more touches in the opposition box and in they are in top three sides for most shots on target. La Roja are doing everything apart from stick the ball in the net!
Slovakia have managed 19 shots across their two games, but no side has had fewer efforts on target with just two, one of which was after Poland were reduced to 10 men. In comparison Spain have conceded one of the fewest number of shots by any side in the opening two group games and the 2nd lowest xGA with 2.0
Let’s remember that had Gerard Mereno’s penalty gone in rather than striking the post this group would have a very different look to it. I can’t believe that Spain will continue with the poor finishing and bad luck in front of goal. The return of captain Sergio Busquets, who was sorely missed in Spain’s first two games due to testing positive for Covid-19, will help bring about a more composed attitude to the game.
Slovakia’s last 20 meaningful games have seen them return figures of W6-D6-L8. Wins have been over Azerbaijan twice, Hungary, Scotland, where they lost the xG 1.36 vs 0.24, Russia (xG 1.21 vs 1.20) and Poland in the opening game (Lost xG 1.71 vs 0.67).
Outside of major tournaments on the road they have W4-D3-L8 with victories against Hungary, Azerbaijan, Lithuania and Malta. Over these 15 games they have kept just one clean sheet in Cyprus despite conceding 1.17 xG, 11 shots and four shots on target. I am not sure how Spain don’t get on the score sheet here and as soon as they happens then Slovakia need to come out and attack which will mean more chances for Spain.
I don’t see many chances for Slovakia and over the last 12 months, outside of friendlies, they have generated a xG of 0.7. So, I am happy to jump on a Spain win and under 3.5 match goals. Spain lack pace and at times over pass the ball looking for the perfect goal and if we believe Slovakia wont score, then this bet would only lose if Spain score four goals.
Going as far back at 2010, Slovakia have lost by more than three goals once to Germany in Euro 2016. Even if Spain do go two goals up, I don’t see them continuing to push for more goals and will be happy to wrap the game up.
Slovakia have collected at least one card in both of their opening games, in 18 of their last 20 games and in 19 of their last 20 away games. With Slovakia defending deep I would expect Spain to rack up the corners. La Roja have managed seven and six so far in their opening two games whilst Slovakia have conceded seven and five, in fact on the road they have conceded an average of 6.0 per game with Spain hitting 8.4 in their meaningful home games.
If Spain can score first, then Slovakia will need to come out and attack them looking for the equaliser which would see them progress to the next round and I believe that Spain will find the net at least twice. As I have mentioned the visitors have failed to keep an away clean sheet in 14 of their last 15 games. Therefore, I am going to back Slovakia over 0 cards, Spain over 1 goal and Spain over 4 corners at 5/6 with Bet365.
I think the game may start slowly with Spain still finding their shooting boots and Slovakia happy to sit deep and try to contain Spain for as long as possible. Over the last 20 meaningful matches Slovakia have seen a total of 20 goals in the opening 45 minutes – 13 scored and just 7 conceded. In their last 16 on the road, they have conceded just five goals in the first half, two of which came against Germany in Euro 2016.
At home Spain haven’t conceded a goal in the opening 45 mins from their most recent 12 meaningful games. At the other end they have scored 19, although eight of these were against Kosovo, Romania and Malta. In the 2nd 45 mins Slovakia have conceded 18 goals, scoring seven, whilst Spain have scored 19 conceding three. That’s an increase of 20% more 2nd half goals from these two sides games.
So far in the Euros we have seen 71 goals with 59.1% goals scored in the 2nd half of games. The game is in Sevilla where the temperature is expected to be 28 degrees at kick-off, which will slow the game down even more. Given all this, I am going to take more goals scored in the 2nd half at 15/13 with Sport Nation.