Bratislava, Slovakia – The national football teams of Central Europe are gearing up for the next round of Euro 2020 qualifiers which will see Slovakia host World Cup finalists Croatia in Trnava before taking on Hungary in Budapest on Monday.
Hungary and Slovakia top Group E
Hungary and Slovakia surprisingly top Group E above Croatia, Wales and Azerbaijan. As things stand, both teams would directly qualify for the Euro 2020.
Slovakia nevertheless has the daunting task of hosting Croatia tonight in what is expected to be their toughest game yet. Having scored five goals in back-to-back games for first time (against Jordania and Azerbaijan), the hosts will be hoping to emulate Hungary’s stunning victory over the World Cup finalists in March.
“A tough and challenging match awaits us, a motivated opponent, but we have our support,” Croatia’s coach Zlatko Dalic said as his squad departed from Zagreb airport yesterday. “We will play offensively and look for victory”.
“I expect a match similar to that in Budapest,” he added. “We need to be much better, more engaged and more responsible to get the result”.
Slovakia have not lost at home to Croatia since 1943.
Slovakia and Hungary will then face off on Monday night in what should be a tense Central European derby. Marek Hamšík’s Sokoli won the sides’ first Group E encounter, 2-0 in Trnava, and Hungary has yet to win in five games against Slovakia (2D, 3L) and
Advantage Slovakia then? High-flying Hungary will need to raise their game after a poor performance saw them lose to Montenegro in a friendly last night, which put an abrupt end to their three-game winning streak.
Poland still unbeaten in Group G
Also tonight, Poland are taking on Slovenia in Ljubljana with the hope of continuing their perfect run which saw them collect 12 points out of a 12 with victories over Austria, Latvia, North Macedonia and Israel.
The Biało-czerwoni will be quite confident with Slovenia only winning one of its last 12 competitive games. Robert Lewandowski will be looking to set a new record of 107 caps if he plays.
Poland will then host Austria in Warsaw on Monday.
It was during Poland’s last game against Israel that thousands of Polish football supporters applauded the Israeli anthem after a small minority tried to drown it out with whistles and jeers in what was described as an “inspiring sporting spectacle”.
Czechs behind England in Group A
The Czech national team will be heading to the Balkans twice over the weekend with games away in Kosovo on Saturday and in Montenegro on Tuesday. The Czechs are currently second of Group A after winning their two games at home against Bulgaria (2-1) and Montenegro (3-0) since they were embarrassed by England at Wembley Stadium in March. They are now second in Group A, just behind the Three Lions.
Saturday’s encounter between the Czech Republic and Kosovo, the first meeting between the two sides, might not be as easy as it sounds since Kosovo is currently unbeaten in 14 matches.
Tuesday’s game against Montenegro is expected to be a bit easier with the Czechs winning all three encounters against the Balkan nation. Montenegro has also yet to score against the Czechs but conceded six.
Here’s a recap’:
Friday 6 September 2019
20:45 – Slovakia – Croatia
20:45 – Slovenia – Poland
Saturday 7 September 2019
15:00 – Kosovo – Czech Republic
Monday 9 September 2019
20:45 – Hungary – Slovakia
20:45 – Poland – Austria
Tuesday 10 September 2019
20:45 – Montenegro – Czech Republic
Budapest to host three Euro 2020 games
The Euro 2020 is scheduled to be held in 12 cities in 12 European countries from 12 June to 12 July 2020; namely London, Rome, Munich, Baku, Dublin, Saint Petersburg, Amsterdam, Bucharest, Copenhagen, Glasgow, Bilbao… and Budapest! The Hungarian capital’s 68,000-seat Ferenc Puskás Stadium will host three group games and one round of 16 game.
For the first time ever, all four Central European teams had qualified for the 2016 edition in France with Poland going the furthest in the competition and losing on penalties in the quarter-finals to future winners Portugal.
Despite surprisingly finishing top of their group above Iceland, Portugal and Austria, underdog Hungary, whose tracksuit-wearing 40-year-old goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly was the oldest player ever to appear in a European Championship, lost 4-0 to Belgium in the round of 16. Slovakia lost to 3-0 to Germany while the Czech Republic didn’t even make it out of the group stage.