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Preview: Wales v Slovakia

For the first time in 20 years two UEFA EURO finals debutants meet in an opening game, with Slovakia ready for an equally proud Wales and a "100% fit" Gareth Bale.

Slovakia players train at the Stade de Bordeaux
Slovakia players train at the Stade de Bordeaux ©Getty Images
  • First time two EURO debutants will meet in their opening match since Turkey v Croatia in 1996
  • On 46th birthday, Chris Coleman praises Joe Ledley's remarkable return from leg fracture
  • Slovakia coach Ján Kozák tells UEFA.com that Tomáš Hubočan faces fitness test
  • Gareth Bale "100% fit" to take on the team against whom he became Wales's youngest scorer
  • Follow our team reporters for the inside track: @UEFAcomMPitman and @UEFAcomRastoH
  • Other game in Group B: England v Russia (21:00CET Saturday, Marseille)

Possible line-ups

Wales: Hennessey; Gunter, Taylor, Chester, Williams, Davies; King, Allen; Ramsey, Bale; Robson-Kanu.
Doubtful: Ledley (leg)

Slovakia: Kozáčik; Pekarík, Škrtel, Ďurica, Hubočan (Švento); Hrošovský, Kucka; Mak, Hamšík, Weiss; Ďuriš.
Doubtful: Hubočan (heel)

Chris Coleman enjoys his 46th birthday
Chris Coleman enjoys his 46th birthday©Panoramic

Coach quotes
Chris Coleman, Wales coach

We're delighted to be here. We thought it would never happen but we are here. We're super excited and very much looking forward the challenge tomorrow. The results will be what they will be but we want to make our nation proud. We need to perform like we can perform and then we will enjoy the moment. These are the players that got us to the tournament in the first place. Our core values must remain the same. All we can do is concentrate on our performance. This is the time to do what we have always done. But we have to enjoy it.
This is what we have always wanted. It's all about what's coming, the next challenge. When the challenges come, these players have met it. These boys will do that. For Joe Ledley to get where he is fitness-wise is fantastic. He's ready to play some part tomorrow. Physically and mentally he's shown what he's made of and that's credit to him.
Walking out will be something special, but we've got to remember that we're here to perform. I want to see the players enjoying and expressing themselves – they've earned it. We can only do what's made us successful. Just walking out and singing the national anthem will be incredible. This first game, everyone wants to win. If you go into the remaining two games with a win, it's a huge boost.

Ján Kozák is ready for Wales and Gareth Bale
Ján Kozák is ready for Wales and Gareth Bale©Getty Images

Ján Kozák, Slovakia coach
In terms of the line-up I have just one question, by which I mean defender Tomáš Hubočan. We will see after training if he will be ready. We are preparing for our first game after 36 years at a EURO [Czechoslovakia last appeared in 1980], but I am old enough to be nervous. Of course, England are favourites to win our group – they have the best squad and can handle the pressure – but the other three teams have equal chances in my opinion. I've never coached in a EURO, but I've played in one and it’s always emotional.

I would not like to go into detail [about handling Gareth Bale], but I gave a hint when I said I respect him. However, Wales are not just about Bale. It's a team game. They have other top players who play for top English teams. He cannot be a great threat to opponents without the team to support him.

Wales team guide

UEFA.com team reporters
Mark Pitman, Wales (@UEFAcomMPitman)
Coleman celebrates his 46th birthday on the eve of Wales's first match at the finals of a major tournament since 1958, but the celebrations will depend solely on how his team perform against Slovakia. The side have prepared in the quiet town of Dinard throughout the week, sharing positive vibes with the locals and the media, yet they will be well aware of the difficult challenge posed by Slovakia.

Talisman Bale has declared himself "100% fit" and he will be key to how Wales get on in France. Meanwhile, the continuing recovery of midfielder Ledley has lifted everyone, and with the fans travelling to Bordeaux in their thousands they should create a great atmosphere.

Rastislav Hríbik, Slovakia (@UEFAcomRastoH)
The first game at a finals can be a nervy occasion, but Slovakia's 2010 FIFA World Cup experience should help them, and the 3-1 friendly victory against Germany on 29 May augurs well. A solid goalkeeper in Matúš Kozáčik behind a defence organised by captain Martin Škrtel should be able to resist Bale and friends. Marek Hamšík's creative power and Juraj Kucka's defensive midfield engine should supply ammunition for Michal Ďuriš up front.

Form guide (all games, most recent first)

A thoughtful Marek Hamšík on Friday
A thoughtful Marek Hamšík on Friday©Getty Images

Did you know?
The first time these teams met, in Cardiff on 7 October 2006, Slovakia triumphed 5-1 and a 17-year-old Gareth Bale became Wales's youngest-ever scorer. Wales won the away return 5-2. Find out more in our extensive match background.

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