Saturday, July 24, 2021

Prediction: Poland vs Slovakia

Verdict: Total goals under 2.5

Best odds: 3/5

Bookmaker: Betfair

Poland and Slovakia are set to kick off their respective Euro campaigns on Monday afternoon by taking each other on at the Krestovsky Stadium, also known as the Gazprom Arena, in Sankt Petersburg. The remaining match of the opening round in Group E will see Spain take on Sweden in the evening of the same day.

Poland

Poland reached the tournament by winning Group G of the qualifications, ahead of Austria, North Macedonia, Slovenia, Israel and Latvia. They topped it quite comfortably, winning eight of the 10 matches played and leaving a six-point gap behind.

You can’t really talk about the Polish national team without dedicating a few words to Robert Lewandowski. Considered by many the best striker in the world, there is a general feeling that he didn’t win the Ballon d’Or last year only because the award wasn’t given at all due to the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic, after firing Bayern Munich to the Bundesliga, DFB-Pokal and the Champions League treble. About to turn 33, Lewandowski followed the heroics of last season up with 48 goals in 40 appearances in all club competitions in 2020-21; a fantastic achievement indeed.

Meanwhile, Poland drew 3-3 against Hungary, beat Andorra 3-0 and lost 2-1 to England in the World Cup qualifiers so far, with all three matches played during the March international break. After that, they only played two pre-Euro friendlies, draws against Russia and Iceland. They have been tipped to finish second in this group, behind 2008 and 2012 winners Spain.

Team News

Injuries have robbed coach Paulo Sousa of several players in the buildup to this tournament, most notably Arkadiusz Milik and Krzysztof Piatek, one of whom was supposed to partner Lewandowski upfront. Wing-back Arkadiusz Reca and defender Krystian Bielik are also out of action.

Southampton defender Jan Bednarek is injured as well, but he could yet be passed fit for Monday.

Among the more notable names nailed on to start are Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, Napoli midfielder Piotr Zielinski, Leeds United midfielder Mateusz Klich, and Lokomotiv Moscow midfielder Grzegorz Krychowiak, formerly of Sevilla and Paris Saint-Germain.

Slovakia

Having finished third in Group E of the qualifications behind Croatia and Wales, Slovakia will have been thoroughly pleased that they’ve reached this tournament, and whatever success they achieve would only be considered a bonus. However, with three teams potentially progressing from the group, they will have their hopes of avoiding the bottom, and with that in mind, they will enter this match determined not to lose.

Slovakia’s qualifications for the 2022 World Cup started with a goalless draw against Cyprus, followed by a 2-2 one against Malta and a slightly surprising 2-1 triumph over Russia. Their pre-tournament friendlies saw them play 1-1 against Bulgaria and 0-0 against Austria.

Team News

The biggest names in the Slovakia team are defender Milan Skriniar, 2020-21 Scudetto winner with Inter Milan, and Marek Hamsik, 33-year-old midfielder plying his trade at IFK Goteborg in Sweden at the moment, who spent 11 and a half years at Napoli and so far has 126 caps for his country.

Forward Ivan Schranz will be missing through a thigh problem, and the attacking line named by coach Stefan Tarkovic is likely to consist of Ondrej Duda, Robert Mak and Lukas Haraslin.

Conclusion

Poland are, of course, the favourites to win this match, but there shouldn’t be many goals in it.

Verdict: Total goals under 2.5

Best odds: 3/5

Bookmaker: Betfair

ABOUT THE AUTHOR

Veselin Trajkovic


Vesko is a football writer that likes to observe the game for what it is, focusing on teams, players and their roles, formations, tactics, rather than stats. He follows the English Premier League closely, Liverpool FC in particular. His articles have been published on seven different football blogs.

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