International friendly: Slovakia vs Netherlands – Lineups, Preview and Prediction
A pre-World Cup friendly between two sides that will not be in Russia this summer.
18:45, Thursday, May 31st, Tehelne Pole Stadium, Bratislava, Slovakia
This is arguably one of the more meaningless friendlies in this international tranche, being played between two sides who will be devastated that they did not make the grade in qualifying for the World Cup.
Slovakia were in England’s group and finished second with 18 points, but that was not enough to earn themselves a spot in the playoffs.
The Netherlands had a very turbulent couple of years which eventually led to them missing out altogether on the World Cup.
Danny Blind was dismissed and replaced by Dick Advocaat midway through the campaign and, as a result, the Dutch failed to qualify even for the playoffs, finishing with 19 points but a worse goal difference than Sweden.
Ronald Koeman now has the reins and needs to rebuild this great footballing nation into a force that drove them to the 2010 World Cup final.
This game will not be a walk in the park for Koeman’s side. Slovakia have not conceded a goal at home since Adam Lallana’s strike for England in October 2016 and they have not lost a home friendly since March 2011.
Jan Kozak has gone with a different approach with his latest squad. Martin Skrtel has been left out along with Dusan Svento.
Midfielders that miss out are former Manchester City player Vladimir Weiss and Filip Kiss, while forward Marek Bakos has been left home.
Ronald Koeman has called upon both youth, mainly coming from the Dutch Eredisivie, coupled with experience in some areas of the field.
A few bigger name players have not been called up included goalkeeper Michel Vorm who is injured, defenders Jeffrey Bruma and Bruno Martins Indi, midfielder Davy Klaassen, whom he signed at Everton last summer for £25 million, and forwards Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben, the latter of which has retired from international football.
Reuters/CIRO DE LUCA
The Napoli star is the player that immediately jumps from the page and his creativity will be vital if Slovakia are to pull off a good result.
He played 47 games this past season for Napoli and scored seven goals. This is his least productive season he has had since making his debut for Napoli in 2007.
On the international stage, Hamsik has earned 103 caps and scored 21 goals, making him one of the greatest players to have represented Slovakia.
Depay was one of the hottest properties in Europe just a few years ago when Manchester United paid over £30 million for his services.
Since then his stock has tumbled, but he is still an excellent player. This past season he netted 22 goals for Lyon in 51 games and rebuilt his reputation that was damaged so severely when he played in the Premier League.
24-year-old Depay had made 38 appearances for his country and netted nine goals. He will hope to add to that against Slovakia.
Can Slovakia keep their solid home form going?
As mentioned above, Slovakia are a great side at home.
It is nearly two years since they conceded on their own turf and they will need that solid form to continue heading into the European qualifiers in the Autumn.
It would be a great confidence boost if they could keep the Netherlands from scoring and prove that they are one of the best home sides in Europe.
Are the Netherlands really bad?
After missing out on the World Cup football fans were genuinely shocked. This is a nation with a proud football heritage that nearly won the World Cup just eight years ago.
Surely they aren’t this bad? Koeman needs his players to prove that they are still a good side that just went through a chaotic qualification.
It will hurt the World Cup that the Orange army won’t be there and Koeman needs to make sure that this does not happen again.
Prediction – Slovakia 1-1 Netherlands
Slovakia will lose their impressive defensive record but they will still remain unbeaten in home friendlies since 2011.
For the Netherlands, a draw would represent progress and help to build some squad unity that they have lacked so much over the last couple of years.