Euro 2016 2nd round fantasy preview: Germany v Slovakia
World champions Germany face Slovakia in the first knock-out round having topped their group, while Slovakia progressed into the next phase after finishing third in Group B.
Germany have not hit top form yet but in a long tournament that could well be a good thing, with Joachim Löw’s side not having had to get out of second gear in their group.
Although Germany could not find a way through the Poland defence, they beat Ukraine and Northern Ireland easily enough and they have not yet conceded a goal at Euro 2016.
Slovakia were beaten by Wales during their group matches but a 2-1 win against Russia and a point against England was enough to seal a place in the next round due to Euro 2016’s 24-team format.
Ján Kozák’s men will not be expected to cause Germany many issues in this round-of-16 clash, but stranger things have happened and Löw’s men cannot afford to become complacent here.
Germany v Slovakia head-to-head
The head-to-head record for this game is strongly in favour of Germany, who have won seven of the 10 meetings between the two nations, losing the other three matches.
However, Slovakia will be buoyed by a 3-1 international friendly over Germany just a few days before the start of the tournament. Mario Gomez gave Germany the lead in stormy conditions, but Kozák’s side produced a stunning comeback in one of the most eye-opening pre-Euro 2016 warm-up games, with Marek Hamšík scoring the equaliser.
Michal Duris then put his side into the lead, before Juraj Kucka added a third to ensure his side would beat the world champions. If they can beat them once, surely they can do it again.
However, in the only competitive matches between Germany and Slovakia, Germany have come out on top on both occasions, earning a pair of wins during the qualifying campaign for Euro 2008.
Germany fantasy players to watch
Germany have yet to concede a single goal at the finals, so their defence is a good place to start when building a Euro 2016 fantasy football team for Sunday’s trio of matches.
Jérôme Boateng is a slight doubt for the game after suffering a knock to his calf in the last group game, but he is expected to recover to take his place in front of his club-mate, the Bayern Munich goalkeeper Manuel Neuer, who is also the captain of this Germany outfit.
Mario Gomez was added to the team for the Northern Ireland match and he came up with the winner, but the form of Thomas Müller must be a slight concern for the world champions.
Müller set up that Gomez goal with a sublime piece of play but it is a strange quirk of his career that the Bayern man has never scored a goal at the European Championship in his career, especially as he has been so prolific at various World Cups over the years.
Germany have reached at least the last four of every single major international tournament since the appointment of Löw and they will be expected to get at least that far at Euro 2016 too.
Slovakia fantasy players to watch
There is no question that Hamšík is the star man for Slovakia and it was his terrific individual display that shone the most in the win over Russia that booked a place in the second round. Hamšík’s goal in that victory was one of the finest of the tournament so far and he may have to produce something similar sublime if his team are to beat Germany on Sunday.
Vladimir Weiss was also on target in the win over Russia – the pair each provided assists for the other player’s goal too – and the combination play between Weiss and Hamšík is what Germany will have to be looking out for in this game.
At the back, Liverpool’s Martin Škrtel was the man of the match in the 0-0 draw against England, producing a WhoScored rating of 8.45 in the process and he will have to be similarly supreme against Germany to boost his side’s chances of pulling off what would be the biggest shock of the tournament so far.