Our prediction for this Euro 2020 match:
All eyes will be on Windsor Park when Northern Ireland and Slovakia square off against each other in the Euro 2021 playoffs final. Northern Ireland did well to shock Bosnia and Herzegovina in the semis, and, no doubt, they are high on confidence ahead of the decider. Leicester City defender Jonny Evans should start after overcoming his injury, while Motherwell goalkeeper Trevor Carson is out of contention through injury.
Both Joel Cooper and Jordan Jones have been left out of the squad, with Galbraith and Kennedy stepping up. The Slovaks, on the other hand, defeated Ireland on penalties in the playoffs semis, and seeing that they are likely to adopt a defence-minded approach in the decider, a low-scoring affair is on the cards. As always, a man to keep an eye on in the away team will be former Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik, who has netted 26 goals in 123 appearances for the Slovakia national team.
Highlighted Player (Will Grigg):
Wighan Athletic striker Will Grigg became a viral sensation during the European Championship in France but the chances are any avid football fan will have been well aware of his goalscoring exploits even before 2016. The 27-year-old forward began his career at Stratford Town but it was in Walsall that the world took notice of his presence after 27 goals in 99 performances for the club.
He first came to prominence during the 2012/13 season when he was voted the club’s Player of the Season and Players’ Player of the Season, but a loan spell at Milton Keynes Dons during his rather unfortunate two-year spell over at Brentford proved crucial for his career.
The total of 20 goals in 44 appearances at Stadium MK was where Wigan Athletic noticed the Northern Ireland man and moved in to sign him on a three year contract for a £1 million fee in 2015. ‘Will Grigg’s on Fire’ was the hit song of the Euro 2016 even though the Northern Ireland striker ended up not getting a chance to make a bow in the tournament.
Highlighted Team (Slovakia):
Slovakia only appeared on the international stage in 1993 as Czechoslovakia fell apart, and the new national team have yet to record a result worth mention. Repre have only qualified for two major tournaments so far, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2016, but the current generation definitely seem capable of improving the team’s profile in years to come.
Slovakia currently have quite a few players plying their trade in some of Europe’s top sides, with Marek Hamsik, Martin Skrtel and Juraj Kucka clearly the leaders of the national team at the moment, but they do struggle in some areas and are not exactly world beaters just yet. Under Vladimir Weiss and Jan Kozak, Slovakia have become a tough not to crack, relying on rock-solid back line and swift counter-attacks, and they even gave Spain a tough time during the Euro 2016 qualifiers.
Miroslav Karhan and Robert Vittek are the most capped player and top goalscorer respectively, with Robert Vittek another player worth the mention.