Wales face Slovakia on finals debut
Friday, 1 January 2016
Wales have never appeared in the EURO finals and first Group B opponents Slovakia are similarly inexperienced, although Gareth Bale has cause to remember a previous meeting fondly.
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Wales make their UEFA European Championship debut against Slovakia in Bordeaux, a game that will hold particular resonance for Gareth Bale.
• The only fixtures played between the teams came in qualifying for UEFA EURO 2008 and produced two unlikely scorelines.
• Bale scored his first goal for Wales in the first meeting, in Cardiff, but Slovakia managed five, Dušan Švento getting the first and Róbert Vittek the fifth.
• That goal made Bale Wales' youngest ever scorer, aged 17 years, two months and 22 days – a record that still stands.
• The teams at the Millennium Stadium on 7 October 2006 were:
Wales: Jones, Duffy, Gabbidon, Nyatanga, Bale, Robinson, Edwards (Ledley 58), Koumas, Davies (Cotterill 88), Earnshaw (Parry 46), Bellamy.
Slovakia: Čontofalský, Kozák, Kratochvíl, M Petráš, Varga, Karhan (Krajčík 67), Mintál (Hodúr 71), Vittek (Hološko 77), P Petráš, Švento, Ďurica.
• The return fixture brought revenge for John Toshack's Wales as they recorded a 5-2 win in Trnava, Craig Bellamy scoring twice.
• The teams at the Antona Malatinského Stadium on 12 September 2007 were:
Slovakia: Senecký, Greško (Žofčák 64), Klimpl, Ďurica, Čech, Hamšík, P Petráš, Sapara, Mintál, Šesták (Obžera 46), Hološko.
Wales: Hennessey, Ricketts, Gabbidon, Morgan, J Collins, Davies, Robinson, Ledley (Vaughan 85), Bale, Bellamy, Eastwood (Fletcher 73).
EURO facts – Wales
• Wales have never before reached a UEFA European Championship final tournament. Their previous best performance came in 1976, when they lost to Yugoslavia 3-1 on aggregate in the quarter-finals, losing the first leg 2-0 in Zagreb before a 1-1 draw in Cardiff.
• Bale scored seven of Wales' 11 goals in qualifying for UEFA EURO 2016, providing two assists – meaning he scored or set up 82% of his side's goals.
EURO facts – Slovakia
• While Slovakia have never before competed in a UEFA European Championship final tournament as an independent nation, as part of Czechoslovakia they appeared in three four-team finals.
• Czechoslovakia finished third in 1960 and 1980 and lifted the trophy in 1976. Eight of the 11 players who started the final against West Germany – and triumphed on penalties after a 2-2 draw – hailed from Slovakia.
• Slovakia reached the 2016 finals thanks mainly to wins in their first six Group C qualifiers, a run that included a 2-1 home triumph against Spain – the holders' first qualifying defeat in 36 matches and nine years.
Coach and player links
• Slovakia coach Ján Kozák earned three caps for Czechoslovakia against Wales in 1978 and 1982 FIFA World Cup qualifying, helping his side reach the latter finals in Spain having missed out four years earlier.
• Slovakia defender Martin Škrtel and Wales midfielder Joe Allen have been Liverpool team-mates since summer 2012.
• Marek Hamšík helped Napoli eliminate a Swansea side including Ashley Williams, Neil Taylor and Ben Davies in the 2013/14 UEFA Europa League round of 32.