Tuesday, July 23, 2024

Prediction: Portugal vs Slovenia

Verdict: Total Portugal goals over 2.5

Best odds: 7/4

Bookmaker: Betfair

Having seen their long success streak halted during the group stage, Portugal will look to reaffirm their status as Euro 2024 contenders when they face Slovenia on Monday evening.

Conversely, Slovenia, entering uncharted territory in their inaugural knockout match at a major tournament, will compete in Frankfurt for a chance to face either France or Belgium in the quarterfinals.

Portugal

Despite clinching the top spot in Group F with a game to spare, Portugal’s surprising loss to underdogs Georgia on Wednesday night cast a shadow over their otherwise strong Euro 2024 campaign.

Errors by Benfica centre-back Antonio Silva allowed the Georgians to score twice – with Khvicha Kvaratskhelia netting a spectacular opener in the second minute – and a late Portuguese rally in Gelsenkirchen was unsuccessful.

Having already secured their place in the last 16 with wins over the Czech Republic and Turkey, head coach Roberto Martinez took the opportunity to rest key players, including Bruno Fernandes, Ruben Dias, Bernardo Silva, and veteran Pepe. Nonetheless, this setback, just their third defeat since the 2022 World Cup exit to Morocco, will sting a squad brimming with talent. It also ended their streak of 12 consecutive competitive victories.

Notably, Portugal have not suffered back-to-back competitive defeats since Euro 2008. With only Germany surpassing them in possession, shots faced, and goal attempts during the group stage, they will be eager to bounce back swiftly.

Martinez’s side remains favorites to advance further in what many consider the more challenging half of the draw. Since their triumph in 2016, Portugal have lost three out of four knockout matches at the Euros and World Cup, a trend they aim to reverse.

Team News

Roberto Martinez will likely bring back key players for Monday’s match, such as Bernardo Silva, Vitinha, and Joao Cancelo. Joao Palhinha, Diogo Costa, and Cristiano Ronaldo are expected to start again. Ronaldo, however, has not scored in his last seven major tournament appearances, the longest drought of his career. Rafael Leao, who is back from suspension, may start on the left wing, while Diogo Jota and Francisco Conceicao are also in contention for starting roles.

Slovenia

Monday’s encounter in Frankfurt will mark only the second-ever meeting between Slovenia and Portugal. Their first clash occurred just in March this year, with Portugal securing a 2-0 victory in a friendly match in Ljubljana.

Unlike their accomplished opponents, who have played in 25 knockout games post-group stage, Slovenia are making their maiden appearance in the elimination rounds of a major tournament. For Matjaz Kek’s squad, advancing this far is a historic achievement worthy of celebration.

Securing a goalless draw against England in their final Group C fixture clinched Slovenia’s spot in the last 16 and extended their unbeaten run to nine matches. This followed earlier draws with Denmark and Serbia, the latter of which they nearly won, accumulating three points and finishing third in the group – enough to break new ground for the Slavic nation.

Despite their limited 32% possession average at Euro 2024, the lowest among teams that have advanced, Kek’s team features notable talent, including captain and goalkeeper Jan Oblak and promising striker Benjamin Sesko.

Prior to Tuesday’s stalemate in Cologne, Slovenia had scored in 14 consecutive matches, last failing to do so in a 2-0 loss to Finland. Their ability to find the net and their resilience on the big stage suggest they can pose a significant threat to the favored Portuguese side.

Team News

Slovenia will rely on former Primeira Liga star Andraz Sporar and rising talent Benjamin Sesko to lead their forward line once again. Both have started all three games so far but are yet to score from a combined 12 shots.

Goalkeeper Jan Oblak, who joined Benfica in 2010 and helped them win the Portuguese treble and reach the Europa League final in his only senior season before moving to Atletico Madrid, may face a busy night against some familiar opponents.

Kek generally prefers a straightforward 4-4-2 formation, with Timi Max Elsnik and Adam Gnezda Cerin anchoring the midfield. The only likely change could see Jure Balkovec replace the suspended Erik Janza at left-back.

Conclusion

If Roberto Martinez chooses not to experiment further with tactics and personnel, Portugal’s firepower should be too much for a hard-working Slovenia side to handle.

With most Portuguese players having had game time, even a compact Slovenian defense could be broken down by a series of fresh-legged substitutes.

Verdict: Total Portugal goals over 2.5

Best odds: 7/4

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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