Slovakia looks for another big upset when it meets England

LILLE, France (AP) Slovakia has no reason to fear England.

The Slovaks, who have secured a series of victories over some big teams in recent years, recovered from their opening loss to Wales at the European Championship by beating Russia 2-1.

Playing in their first continental tournament as an independent nation since Czechoslovakia split in 1993, the Slovaks would likely reach the knockout stages with a point against England on Monday in Saint-Etienne.

''It's a good thing that we have it in our hands,'' Slovakia coach Jan Kozak said. ''We have three points but we need more because without a point from the last game, we could hardly advance.''

Slovakia has three points in Group B, the same as Wales. England leads the group with four points, while Russia has one.

In recent years, Slovakia has notched up memorable wins against Italy, Spain and Germany.

Playing in its first major international tournament at the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, Slovakia pulled off one of the competition's biggest upsets when it eliminated then-world champion Italy in a group match.

Slovakia needed a victory to advance to the knockout stages, and it got it, winning 3-2. In the round of 16, the Slovaks ran eventual runner-up Netherlands close in a 2-1 loss.

Slovakia recorded another big win in qualifying for Euro 2016 when it beat two-time defending champion Spain 2-1 in 2014. That was Spain's first loss in a qualifier for the European Championship or World Cup since 2006.

And more recently in May in a friendly in the German city of Augsburg, Slovakia beat the host country 3-1.

Against England, Slovakia will look to midfielder Marek Hamsik to deliver another impressive performance. Hamsik, who plays for Napoli, scored one and set up another in the victory over Russia.

''We have to get ready well for them,'' Slovakia midfielder Juraj Kucka, speaking at the team's training base in Vichy, said of England. ''They will go for a win. It will be tough for us but I hope we'll succeed.''

Kozak said he will be making changes for the match against England, which needs only a draw to advance.

''We face a different opponent,'' Kozak said. ''Different players and different style of play.''

SI Apps
We've Got Apps Too
Get expert analysis, unrivaled access, and the award-winning storytelling only SI can provide—from Peter King, Tom Verducci, Lee Jenkins, Andy Staples, Grant Wahl, and more—delivered straight to you, along with up-to-the-minute news and live scores.