England failed to fire in their opening U21 European Championship match but can Aidy Bothroyd's side rise to the occasion against Slovakia on Monday? Mark O'Haire previews the second round of Group A fixtures...
"Slovakia are attractive outsiders to bag back-to-back wins on Monday with England seemingly priced-up on reputation rather than any substantial evidence"
Slovakia U21 v England U21
Monday 19th June, 17:00
Live on Sky Sports
England, [1.72], were left frustrated on Friday night in Kielce as they drew 0-0 with Sweden in the opening game of European U21 Championships.
In a result that did neither nation any good, the Young Lions' fate now rests in their own hands if they're to progress to the semi-finals for the first time since 2009. Anything less than victory against group leaders Slovakia here would spell disaster and an early exit.
Aidy Boothroyd's men had Jordan Pickford to thank for the point against the Swedes - his late penalty save ensured England didn't end up empty-handed following a largely ineffectual performance lacking attacking inspiration and cutting edge.
Nathanial Chalobah picked up the Man of the Match award for his energetic, accomplished display in midfield but club-mates Lewis Baker and Tammy Abraham cut largely forlorn figures as the Young Lions failed to create clear-cut chances, managing a sole effort on-target - James Ward-Prowse's free-kick.
Boothroyd's boys were a threat from set-pieces but were vulnerable against the counter-attack and the England boss was forced to defend his tactics post-match as his rigid 4-4-2 system struggled to exert authority following a bright opening stanza.
In contrast, opponents Slovakia, [4.50], fell behind after 53 seconds to tournament hosts Poland but bounced back superbly to dominate proceedings for large swathes of their opening encounter, eventually securing victory through Pavol Safranko's goal late on.
Martin Valjent deservedly levelled scores midway through the first-half before Safranko completed the turnaround following a swift counter-attacking move in front of a sell-out crowd in Gdynia to push Pavel Hapal's troops to the top of the Group A tree.
Adam Zrelak - scorer of 10 goals in qualifying - was denied a goal and a penalty soon after as Slovakia played with confidence and quality on the ball. The pre-match underdogs fired in six on-target efforts throughout a largely impressive performance, highlighting their potential as dark horses.
The free-scoring Slovaks beat the Netherlands home and away en-route to the finals and 12 of their squad have already tasted senior international experience. Hapal had the luxury of leaving Laszlo Benes - dubbed the 'new Marek Hamsik' on the bench on Friday, suggesting there's still more to come from the side that finished fourth in 2000.
Slovakia are attractive outsiders to bag back-to-back wins on Monday with England seemingly priced-up on reputation rather than any substantial evidence. It's just one triumph in 10 previous group-games in this competition and the Young Lions are best opposed again here.
The [2.12] available for Slovakia or Draw in the Double Chance market is our preferred angle of attack.
Back Slovakia or draw Double Chance [2.12]
Poland U21 v Sweden U21
Monday 19th June, 19:45
Live on Sky Sports
Host nation Poland, [2.92], got their European U21 Championship campaign off to the best possible start when Patryk Lipski headed in the tournament's opening goal after 53 seconds against Slovakia in Gdynia on Friday night.
However, the White Eagles weren't able to consolidate their winning position and were soon reeled in by Slovakia. Goalkeeper Jakub Wrąbel looked like an accident waiting to happen between the sticks whilst Marcin Dorna's men lost Bartosz Kapustk to injury soon into the second-half.
Poland could have secured a point late on when Pawel Dawidowicz's goal-bound header was remarkably kept out but the hosts could have few complaints about the final scoreline having landed only three efforts on-target throughout.
Opponents Sweden, [2.62], were made to rue Linus Wahlqvist's missed penalty against England in their curtain-raiser but the Blue-Yellow will have been pleased with their performance, particularly in a dominant second-half display.
Pawel Cibicki clipped the crossbar for Hakan Ericson's men as they grew into the game, looking especially dangerous when breaking from deep at pace. However, Sweden were uncomfortable defending set-pieces and that might be an area where a tall and physical Polish outfit look for supremacy.
Sweden have proved a tough nut to crack at this level - holding Spain to home and away draws in an unbeaten qualification campaign - and I'm not yet ready to desert the defending champions. Both nations need a victory to keep their semi-final hopes alive but the Blue-Yellow present the best value at [1.85] in the Draw No Bet market.
Back Sweden Draw No Bet [1.85]