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Euro 2016: Germany v/s Slovakia preview - Will the World Cup winners wake up from their group-stage slumber?

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

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Despite topping their group, Germany have found themselves on the toughest side of the draw and will play either reigning champions Spain or bogey team Italy if they make it through to the quarterfinals.
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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 on Sunday. 

Joachim Loew'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 since independence.

Despite topping their group, Germany have found themselves on the toughest side of the draw and will play either reigning champions Spain or bogey team Italy if they make it through to the quarterfinals. But they must first be wary of Slovakia, who unsettled Loew's side in the build-up to the tournament by winning a friendly 3-1 in Augsburg.

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. 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.

Jaz 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. 

Stat attack

Germany have averaged 71.9 per cent possession over their first three games, the highest ratio so far at Euro 2016.

Did you know?

Slovakia have only kept one clean sheet in seven games at major tournaments, in their last outing against England.

Predicted XI

Germany:
Neuer, Kimmich, Boateng, Hummels, Hector; Kroos, Khedira; Mueller, Ozil, Goetze, Gomez

Slovakia:
Kozacvik, Pekarik, Skrtel, Durica, Hubocan; Kucka, Pecovsky, Mak, Hamsik, Weiss, Duda

Deadly duel

Jerome Boateng (Germany)
Age: 27, Position: Defender, Caps: 62

Marek Hamsik (Slovakia)
Age: 28, Position: Midfielder, Caps: 89

Match timing: 9.30 pm, June 26

Where to watch: Sony Six, Sony ESPN and live streaming

Boateng has been crucial for the German defence which has yet to concede a goal in this tournament. He had renewed his World Cup-winning partnership in the central defence with Mats Hummels. And on Sunday, he will look to stop the in-form Hamsik who have been exceptional for Slovakia, especially with his long range shots.

Manager Talk

Joachim Löw, Germany coach

Joachim, Germany's coach feels that Slovakia are different from Slovakia. "Slovakia are a different opponent to Northern Ireland. I think they're a lot stronger. We were beaten by them at the end of May so we're aware they have great quality and are good defensively. We won't have as much space as we did against Northern Ireland and that's why I'm considering one or two changes. I think we'll cope better than England did in the group stage," he said.

He stresses that they cannot let go of good shots the way they did in the match against Northern Ireland. He said, "In terms of taking chances I wasn't satisfied against Northern Ireland and nor were the players. We're all aware that we can't waste these opportunities against upcoming opponents as we simply won't have as many anymore.
[Boateng] took part in training and had no complaints so we don't expect there to be any problems. [Bastian Schweinsteiger] has been injured for quite a long time and has not started since January so it was obvious he wouldn't be ready for 90 minutes from the start here. But he's fitter now and finding his rhythm so he'll play a decisive role for us in this tournament." 

Ján Kozák, Slovakia coach

Slovakian coach agrees on the match being a tough one but says they will not feel pressurised in this game. "Germany is a great challenge for us. However, I don't think the pressure Germany put us under will be as intense as England did in our last game. If we want to be successful again, we need to play as a team. Yes, they are a strong side, but every opponent has weaknesses. We will try to exploit those."

Kozak's team has prepared well for this match. Kozak said, "They are world champions and a top-quality team. But we have prepared thoroughly and have already been involved in difficult matches during qualifying. We won against Spain, a victory which helped us get here. After we lost against Wales we had to survive some tough moments here in France – the matches against Russia and England were psychologically and physically tough. But we don't qualify often, so we intend to do our utmost while we are here."

Team News

Slovakia's Mak and Svento are doubtful to play on Sunday against Germany for hamstring and muscular injuries respectively.

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