Euro 2020: Sweden v Slovakia: Can Skriniar strike again with knockout spot up for grabs?
Stefan Tarkovic’s side sit proudly atop Group E after a 2-1 win in St Petersburg on Monday, with the in-form Milan Skriniar’s goal decisive.
It represented just a second victory at a European Championship for Slovakia, who are enjoying a six-match unbeaten run in all competitions.
After those joyous celebrations at the start of the week, Tarkovic has had to contend with the unwelcome distraction of two coronavirus positives within the camp.
Defender Denis Vavro and a member of staff are the duo affected but Tarkovic said UEFA protocols had been followed “to avoid the spread of the infection”, with the pair now in self-isolation.
A win would send Slovakia through to the knockout phase but they face a Sweden side who secured a surprise result of their own in holding Spain to a goalless draw.
Janne Andersson’s men showed practically no desire to attack as Spain dominated the ball, enjoying 85 per cent of possession.
Sweden clocked up just 162 passes against Spain’s 917, while forward Marcus Berg exited proceedings after 69 minutes having touched the ball only 17 times.
The dynamics in this game, which will again be in St Petersburg, are altogether different and the Swedes will be under pressure to get on the front foot.
The omens do not bode well for Sweden, who have lost their second match of the group stage at each of the last four major tournaments.
However, those games were against Spain, England, Italy and Germany.
It was honours even the last time these two sides met as they shared a 1-1 draw back in 2018.
PLAYERS TO WATCH
Sweden – Alexander Isak
Despite Sweden being so thoroughly outplayed by Spain, Isak did manage to make a positive impression and might, in fact, have scored. His shot bounced off the knee of Marcos Llorente and struck the post, while the Real Sociedad forward laid on a glorious chance for Berg, who fluffed his lines.
Slovakia – Milan Skriniar
Inter centre-half Skriniar might once have been considered an unlikely match-winner, but after failing to score in his first 37 international outings he now has three goals in his past four appearances for Slovakia. Skriniar also led the way for his team in touches (69), clearances (10) and blocks (two), as well as winning five duels against Poland.
KEY OPTA FACTS
– This will be the first meeting between Sweden and Slovakia at a major tournament (European Championship and World Cup).
– Slovakia have never beaten Sweden in their five previous encounters (D3 L2), with their last four games never producing more than two goals.
– Slovakia have won two games in total at the Euros – one against Russia in 2016 and another against Poland last time out, which took place in Russia; their match against Sweden will also be held in Russia.
– Following their 2-1 victory against Poland on MD1, Slovakia will be looking to win their opening two games at a major tournament for the first time.
– Sweden have failed to score in three consecutive matches at the Euros – their final two group games in 2016 and their opening match against Spain last time out. They had only failed to score three times in their previous 18 games at the tournament before this.
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