EURO 2024 Round of 16 | England vs Slovakia

England Vs Slovakia (Gelsenkirchen), 18:00)

England fans were extremely hopeful heading into this tournament. Let's be honest; this is for good reason. Harry Kane, Jude Bellingham, and Phil Foden are just some of the players England fans are pinning their hopes on.

Players like Jack Grealish, James Maddison, and Marcus Rashford didn't even make the 26. This illustrates how much attacking talent this English side has at its disposal. In some people's eyes, this squad depth is the principal reason why England are favourites.

It's quite a different story for Slovakia. They didn't come into this tournament with a ton of expectations, but those in the know know they have some solid players. Therefore, although many might look at this fixture and instantly predict an England win, it doesn't necessarily mean it will go that way.




Performance in the Group Stage

England might have topped the group, but their performances didn't warrant such an honour. During their first game against Serbia, they took an early lead and then sat back for almost the entirety of the second half. The less said about the 1-1 draw between them and Denmark, the better. It was hard to believe we were watching some of the best players in the world.

When fans demanded a more enterprising performance, England played a turgid 0-0 draw against Slovenia. Despite their attacking talent, things have yet to come close to clicking for this England side in this tournament. In the last 20 minutes, Southgate's substitutes made a notable difference, and we expect to be looking at a different side for this fixture.

Slovakia began this tournament stunning a very talented Belgium side. They did ride their luck, but few would begrudge them of that. From there on in, they knew that one more point almost guaranteed qualification. However, a loss against Ukraine in their second match piled on the pressure.

Slovakia drew 1-1 with Romania in their final group-stage match. Slovakia took the lead with a goal from Ondrej Duda, but Romania equalised later in the game. This draw was crucial for Slovakia, helping them secure a spot in the round of 16 as one of the best third-placed teams.

Match Analysis

England are expected to make a few changes for this game. Arnold and Gallagher have been used as partners for Declan Rice in midfield, but it appears that particular experiment is now over, and we expect to see Kobbie Mainoo start this game. Phil Foden has temporarily flown home for the birth of his third child. This could see Anthony Gordon playing on the left, and Cole Palmer might have also played his way into the starting XI despite only playing for 20 minutes versus Slovenia.

Slovakia's game plan will be ultra-simple: Sit back and see if they can hurt this England team on the counterattack. This England side hasn't yet found the answer to the question: How do you break down a team that is hell-bent on defending? From an English perspective, fans will hope they have spent the last few days figuring out answers to this question. From a Slovakian perspective, they hope England's struggles will continue.

Players to watch:

Focusing on England, it is clear that something has to change. The last twenty minutes versus Slovenia should be the way forward. The two players below have the potential to make a significant impact in this game.

- Kobbie Mainoo: Six months ago, the 18-year-old wouldn't have even been on Southgate's radar. Now, he is set to play a huge role for his side. Arnold and Gallagher were unable to make the desired impact. Mainoo, however, looks born to play the role, and along with Rice, he will be the future of England's midfield.

- Cole Palmer: This man has only played 20 minutes this tournament and made more of an impact than many players who have played all three games. Having scored 22 goals for Chelsea this season, nobody should be surprised by his talent. He is so exciting to watch, and for us, he simply has to start this fixture.

- Milan Škriniar: The PSG man is his nation's most noted player. He is the modern centre half. Strong and good at the basics but also has the passing ability of a top midfielder. During this game, his side will be looking towards his defensive attributes, and we expect him to have a good match.

Match Prediction

Slovakia were understandably delighted to have reached this stage of the tournament. As for England, fans expect nothing less than to see them in the final. Perhaps this expectation level has resulted in the lacklustre performances we have seen so far. Despite this England team giving us nothing to shout about, we are still backing them to beat a team they are much superior to.