New Zealand vs Slovakia – Hamsik can inspire Slovakia debut win
Slovakia are a very convincing 4/9 to win their first ever World Cup match when they take on minnows New Zealand on Tuesday at 12.30pm.
This will be the first meeting between the two nations, who are separated by 44 places in the FIFA rankings, with Slovakia 34th and New Zealand 78th.
New Zealand caused a stir by beating Serbia 1-0 in a recent friendly but their lack of big match pedigree could prove to be their undoing in this encounter.
Apart from the surprising victory against Serbia, New Zealand have lost three of their last four matches, while Slovakia have one win and a draw from their last two fixtures.
With superior ranking and form in mind, Slovakia seem well set to beat New Zealand, who are 7/1 to win this match and are still searching for their first win at a World Cup.
Slovakia had the tougher qualification campaign, and they will be buoyed by the fact that they beat neighbours Czech Republic to a place in South Africa.
New Zealand, contrastingly, had to battle with New Caledonia, Fiji and Vanuatu before edging Bahrain in a play-off.
The All Whites tend to struggle against opposition ranked higher than themselves, as exemplified by their performances at last year’s Confederations Cup, such as a 5-0 drubbing by Spain.
Having only gained independence in 1993, this is Slovakia’s first World Cup, whereas it will be New Zealand’s second appearance, after they qualified in 1982.
Despite their inexperience at major tournaments, the star quality of Slovakia’s leading players should overwhelm New Zealand.
Much will be expected of their captain Marek Hamsik in particular, and the Napoli midfielder who has eight goals from 32 caps is a tempting 7/1 to score first.