Our writer previews the captivating contest between Slovakia and England as the UEFA 2018 Russia World Cup qualifiers get underway on Sunday evening.
So it begins… A new era is upon us as Sam Allardyce takes charge of his first game as England boss. His first test is to beat a side that Roy Hodgson failed to claim victory over, drawing 0-0 in the Euro 2016 against a stubborn Slovakia outfit. The Three Lions were full of disappointment in the tournament and looked more like Three Cubs. But with a new manager at the helm, the world awaits to see Big Sam set up what could be a ruthless England side in the coming years.
World Cup Qualifiers | Sunday 4 September | Stadion Antona Malatinskeho | 18:00
To Win (90 Mins)
Slovakia 29/10 | Draw 22/10 | England 1/1
Slovakia blew hot and cold for much of their Euro 2016 campaign. A win, loss and a draw meant qualification into the next round, where they were completely outclassed by Germany, losing the match 3-0. Against England, though, the Slovaks were tight in defence but didn’t challenge England’s backline that much. Some counter-attacking play from Marek Hamsik, proved to be their only threat going forward.
Slovakia did show, however, that on their day, could hurt teams. In the Euro’s, their most impressive game was against Russia, where they picked up their only victory of the campaign, winning 2-1. In that match, Jan Kozak’s side threw the numbers forward and showed no respect to the Russian defence. It may have worked in his favour, however, such a risky tactic could be exposed in modern day football times.
Slovakia will look to do what they know best and attack the game to get all three points on offer when they host a rejuvenated England side in the first round of UEFA 2018 Russia World Cup qualifiers.
The first important decision that Big Sam made at the start of his tenure was to retain the services of Wayne Rooney as captain. The next big decision Allardyce has to make is what position he has in mind for the Three Lions captain. Under Jose Mourinho at Manchester United, Rooney has re-established his role as a No. 10. Under former boss, Roy Hodgson, Rooney often sat deep and pulled the strings in midfield. So where to now for Rooney? Only time will tell.
Another problem for Big Sam to deal with is whether or not to stick with his number one shot-stopper, Joe Hart, who has struggled for game time at Manchester City, forcing him to go on loan to Torino in order to save his career.
Big Sam’s first squad selection leaves me with plenty to ask, like where is Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Marcus Rashford and Ross Barkley? And why is Theo Walcott, Jordan Henderson and Danny Drinkwater selected? However, England always manage to do just enough and a bit more when it comes to qualifying stages.
In the Euro qualifiers, the Three Lions picked up a staggering 30 points from 10 games, winning all their matches.
Verdict: England Win + Both Teams To Score (Yes) (39/10)
As mentioned above, England are a team made for qualifiers. Group F contains a few tricky fixtures for them, but this is certainly their biggest test. Slovakia managed to hold onto a goalless draw the last time these sides met, but that was under the tutelage of Roy Hodgson. Under Big Sam, England are tipped to win their first match of Group F. However, Slovakia do have the talent to get the odd goal. My mind is going with England to Win + Both Teams To Score (Yes) at a valuable 39/10.
Written by Jesse Nagel @Hollywoodbets