Sweden and Slovakia enter Matchday 2 at Euro 2020 with an eye on the knockout stage. A victory for Slovakia, winners over Poland in their first match, will guarantee a spot in the Round of 16 for the second straight European championship, while three points for Sweden won’t officially ensure advancement to the knockout round, but it would put the Blagult on the precipice.
Coverage of Sweden and Slovakia starts at 8:30am ET/5:30am PT on TSN 1/3 and streaming on TSN.ca, the TSN App and TSN Direct.
Slovakia captain Marek Hamsik, who played his club football in Sweden last season with Goteborg and is set to join Trazbonspor on July 1, knows the challenge awaiting his team against a side that frustrated Spain to a 0-0 scoreless draw earlier this week.
“Sweden have been playing the same football for many years, have been together for a long time and have cohesive and aggressive players,” the former Napoli midfielder said. “We should match them if we do not want them to beat us. However, entering the championship helped us to be in positive mood and we have to show it again on the pitch."
Goalkeeper Martin Dubravka of Newcastle agreed with his captain’s assessment.
“They have had a good team for some years now,” Dubravka said of the Blagult. “They have good individuals; I won't mention them, but they do have them. We know the positions their star players play in, but we've always focused on our strong suits, on our squad. That's how we've achieved our successes."
Slovakia will be without the services of Denis Vavro against Sweden. The Lazio defender, who spent last season on loan at Huesca, tested positive for COVID-19 on Wednesday along with a member of the team’s coaching staff. Vavro did not feature in the 2-1 victory over Poland.
As for the opposition, Sweden will look to build upon a strong defensive effort against Spain, but will need to do a better job of retaining possession and pushing forward. It was one-way traffic for Spain this past Monday, especially in the latter stages of the match, with Luis Enrique’s team enjoying 85 per cent of possession. Manager Janne Andersson believes his team needs to get back to what made them successful.
"The key will be to settle into our own way of playing,” Andersson said. “We had too little of that against Spain. The other week we played Armenia and played an excellent match in attack against a side that also defends deeper."
Still, Andersson realizes that taking a point from Spain has put Sweden in an advantageous spot in the group.
"We put ourselves in a good position after the first round and now we need to build on that by playing a good match, hopefully getting a good result tomorrow again,” Andersson said.
Historically, Sweden has enjoyed the advantage over Slovakia in their handful of previous meetings. The undefeated Blagult hold a 3-2-0 record against Slovakia. Their last meeting came back in a friendly in 2018. The two teams played to a 1-1 draw in Stockholm.
POTENTIAL SWEDEN XI: Olsen; Lustig, Lindelöf, Danielson, Augustinsson; Larsson, Olsson, Ekdal, Forsberg; Berg, Isak
POTENTIAL SLOVAKIA XI: Dubravka; Pekarik, Satka, Skriniar, Hubocan; Kucka, Hromada; Haraslin, Hamsik, Mak; Duda