Slovakia 0-0 Northern Ireland: Stalemate between two teams gearing towards Euro 2016

This latest and fourth clash between the teams was the final warm-up game for both sides before they head to France.

Slovakia 0-0 Northern Ireland: Stalemate between two teams gearing towards Euro 2016
Neither side could take hold of the game (photo: Sky Sports)
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Northern Ireland
Slovakia: Kozacik, Pekarik, Skrtel, Durica, Svento, Hrosovsky, Kucka (Nemec 84'), Mak (Stoch 65'), Hamsik, Weiss, Duris (Duda 65').
Northern Ireland: McGovern, McNair (McLaughlin 91'), McAuley, J Evans, Cathcart (Hughes 30'), Ferguson (Hodson 86'), Baird, Davis, Norwood (C Evans 84'), Lafferty (Washington 55'), Ward (Magennis 45').
REFEREE: Radu Petrescu (ROM). Admonished McNair (min. 49)

Hosts Slovakia were marginally the better side in Trnava as they completed their three Euro 2016 preparation games without a defeat, whilst the goalless draw for Northern Ireland ensures they enter the competition as the form team with a streak of twelve unbeaten games under their belts.

A mirror of Wales

The match was specifically organised so Slovakia could prepare for their first Euro 2016 match against Wales next Saturday, with Northern Ireland providing a mirror of what their fellow home nation may offer tactically. Slovakia dominated possession but found a difficult back five hard to break down in a well organised Northern Ireland defence.

Although Michael O'Neill's men were set up defensively, they did offer spells of excitement, particularly through Championship forwards Kyle Lafferty and Conor Washington, though neither could find a breakthrough. 

Both teams set up with starting XIs that are unlikely to be too much different from those taking the field against Wales and Poland respectively next weekend. As the hosts took control of the ball, it was Vladimir Weiss who had the first real effort on goal, firing wide from distance. 

The game gradually built in tempo, despite Craig Cathcart picking up a worrying injury that allowed Aaron Hughes to replace him and make his 100th international appearance. Martin Skrtel headed over from a corner, whilst Slovakia delivered a handful of dangerous crosses that were only a matter of inches from finding the willing runners flooding the box from midfield.

Both sides had some of their better moments towards the end of the half, though both Robert Mak and Chris Baird were thwarted by the opposing goalkeepers as a tight first period drew to a close. 

Both sides encountered resolute defences (photo: Getty Images)
Both sides encountered resolute defences (photo: Getty Images)

Both defences hold firm

As predicted, Northern Ireland used the match to experiment with their strikers, though it was Weiss who had a golden opportunity at the beginning of the half to break the deadlock, but the former Manchester City man could only lift his chipped effort over the goalkeeper and the crossbar. 

QPR striker Washington added some life to the Northern Ireland team when he came on as a substitute forcing a fine save from Matus Kozacik in the Slovakian goal. A flurry of substitutions interrupted the tempo of the game, before Slovakia found another gear in the final ten minutes. 

Marek Hamsik, who had an uncharacteristically quiet game, went close to meeting a driven cross, whilst Weiss had another effort saved. Liverpool's Skrtel almost sliced the ball into his own goal at the other end, but the match eventually filtered out as a stalemate.

Attention now turns to France for the two teams who will arrive at their training bases in the coming days. Although not major names in World football, any nation coming across them cannot underestimate two spirited and form teams at Euro 2016.