Euro 2016

Germans know Slovak prowess

World champs wary of Hamsik & Co after losing friendly but are ready for the big stage

ROUND OF 16

Germany v Slovakia Singtel TV Ch142 & StarHub Ch220, 11.50pm

LILLE • Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer believes the world champions can put a slow start to Euro 2016 behind them and thrive under the pressure of knockout football when they face Slovakia today.

Joachim Low's side progressed to the last 16 as winners of Group C, beating Ukraine and Northern Ireland, drawing with Poland and all without conceding a single goal.

But Neuer knows better is expected from the Germans at the Stade Pierre-Mauroy in Lille, as they face a Slovak side appearing at this stage of a Euro for the first time.

  • State Of Play

  • FIXTURES

    ROUND OF 16

    France v Ireland

    Singtel TV Ch142 & StarHub Ch220, 8.50pm

    Germany v Slovakia

    Ch142 & Ch220, 11.50pm

    Hungary v Belgium

    Ch142 & Ch220, tomorrow, 2.50am

"We have played three teams who pack everyone behind the ball. We didn't have much space and in games like these it's not easy to win by a large margin," said the captain after Germany mustered just three goals in the group phase.

"We finished top of our group and so we have stuck to our route map.

"But now we are into straight knockout football and anything can happen.

Despite topping their group, Germany have found themselves on the tougher side of the draw and will play either champions Spain or bogey team Italy if they make it through to the quarter-finals.

  • 3

  • World champions Germany scored only three goals in the group stage - two against Ukraine, one versus Northern Ireland and failed to find the net against Poland.

But they must first be wary of Slovakia, who unsettled Low's side in the build-up to the tournament by winning a friendly 3-1 in Augsburg.

Those were the last goals Neuer conceded and he knows Germany need to be especially wary of Slovakia star Marek Hamsik, who was among the scorers in that game.

"Everyone knows about Hamsik's ability to shoot from range. He scores some great goals at Napoli with those," Neuer said.

"In the group phase he didn't often get into forward positions. It's important that our midfielders disturb the rhythm of his game early on. But we shouldn't focus on just one player, we need to look at our opponents as a whole."

All eyes will be on Low's selection decisions in defence, with centre-back Jerome Boateng struggling with a calf knock and missed training with the team on Friday. He suffered the injury in the final group win over Northern Ireland.

Youngster Joshua Kimmich is also hoping to keep his place after impressing at right-back.

After much criticism of the pitch in Lille, a new surface was laid on Thursday but neither team was allowed to train on it on the eve of the game.

Germany will therefore stage their final practice session at their base in Evian near the Swiss border before flying to northern France yesterday. Slovakia will do likewise at their camp in Vichy, central France, prior to returning to the scene of their Hamsik-inspired win against Russia in the group phase that paved their way to the last 16.

Jan Kozak's side held England in Saint-Etienne in their last match to advance from Group B as one of the best third-placed sides. They famously beat Spain in qualifying and their recent exploits in beating the Germans means they come into this rematch with confidence.

"They have great quality and this will be a very demanding match, but we played them a few weeks back and won on their home ground," winger Vladimir Weiss told Uefa.com.

"Of course it will be a different match, but I think that at the level the competition has now reached, the standard is quite even and I think every team is capable of beating every other team."

Robert Mak should be fine despite a hamstring problem and Peter Pekarik will not wear a protective mask on his broken nose, but fellow defender Dusan Svento is out.

AGENCE FRANCE-PRESSE, REUTERS

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Sunday Times on June 26, 2016, with the headline 'Germans know Slovak prowess'. Print Edition | Subscribe