One of the downfalls in a 32-team tournament contingent upon regional qualification, is the obvious dilution of the overall talent pool. On June 15th when New Zealand battles Slovakia in Group F action, very few recognizable faces will line up on either side of the pitch, in what is poised to be a largely irrelevant fixture.
Slovakia vs New Zealand Betting Odds for June 15th World Cup Match:
New Zealand (+715)
Over 2.5 (+109)
Under 2.5 (-124)
That being said this is the World Cup and as we have seen many times before, the world’s most popular game on its biggest stage frequently produces magical occurrences. Being placed in Group F with the defending champions of Italy and a confident team from Paraguay, makes obtaining three points here an absolute necessity for both sides.
The Kiwis of New Zealand have long lived in the shadows of their rugby counterparts, however in South Africa the eyes of the nation will be solely focused on their squad. Although they are merely ecstatic just in getting to South Africa, they have some reason for hope as New Zealand enters the competition on a high, after defeating a tough Serbian side in a tournament tune-up match in what head coach Ricki Hebert dubbed “our greatest result ever.” It seems a little peculiar for a warm-up match victory to be considered their best ever, yet the expectations are quite low for New Zealand, simply hoping not to replicate a performance such as Canada in 1986, handily losing all 3 matches without managing a single goal.
In just their second World Cup ever, the All-Whites will go with an ultra-defensive 5-3-2 formation. However they haven’t experienced offensive attacks like they will see in South Africa and it will be interesting to observe how they can handle the creativity up front of the Slovaks. Another concern within the New Zealand camp will be the match fitness of their players. The majority of which ply their trade in the country’s domestic league which finished in March, leaving three full months in between meaningful matches. Look for the Kiwis to be a little rusty in the early going versus Slovakia.
The Slovakians had a much more difficult road to South Africa than their opponents from New Zealand. Being paired in a group with Poland, Slovenia, and the Czech Republic, it was the gritty Slovaks who emerged victorious in the tough European qualification tournament. In fact, ever since head coach Vladimir Weiss took over, the Slovaks have been the world’s fastest risers, jumping from 67th to their current position of 33rd.
Their success is derived from an admirable display of team cohesion. They play well as an 11-man unit and are incredibly disciplined. Although they face a tall task of advancing past the group stages, New Zealand should be a relatively easy opening fixture for them. Slovakia will likely employ an attacking brand of the 4-4-2 formation being paced by their dynamic central midfielder Marek Hamsik. Hamsik, who plays professionally in Italy is the facilitator of the Slovakian attack and all plays are run through this young talent. He has scored 8 times in 30 national team appearances, and look for him to get on the board against the Kiwis. Although they lack the flash and star players of both Italy and Paraguay, the Slovaks will push hard for a convincing result against New Zealand to set them up nicely for a potential upset against the group favorites later on in the competition.
The Kiwis possess a slim chance of doing anything in South Africa, as shown by the golf lessons the players have recently been taking. Yet their counterparts Slovakia will be focused and prepared for advancement, and in order to do so will not only need to beat New Zealand, but do so in convincing fashion.
New Zealand vs Slovakia Match Prediction: Slovakia 2 – New Zealand 0
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