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Tuesday, April 23

TIMELINE

Slovakia's Marek Hamsik cautious of "aggressive" Wales side

PA | 1mo
Slovakia started their 2020 European Championship qualifying campaign with a 2-0 home victory over Hungary.

Slovakia star Marek Hamsik admits he is wary of playing Wales again after losing to them at Euro 2016.

Former Napoli midfielder Hamsik was part of the Slovakia side beaten 2-1 in Bordeaux as Wales started their march to the semi-finals of that tournament.

The two nations meet again in Cardiff on Sunday as Wales begin their 2020 European Championship qualifying campaign.

"Wales has quality and I remember that match," said Hamsik, who ended his 11-year stay at Napoli last month to join Chinese club Dalian Yifang.

"It was quite unlucky for us. We could have won but then we lost it. Wales showed their power."

Hamsik was prevented from giving Slovakia a third-minute lead in Bordeaux by Ben Davies' brilliant goal-line clearance.

The 31-year-old slalomed his way through the Welsh defence and fired past Danny Ward in the Wales goal, but Tottenham defender Davies got back on the line to clear.

"I remember this moment well," Hamsik said.

"It was unlucky because I did a very good individual action and unfortunately I didn't score.

"Now Croatia is the favourite in the group, but also Wales has quality.

"We hope to qualify for the championship because it's a dream."

Slovakia started their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a 2-0 victory over Hungary on Thursday.

New manager Pavel Hapal has won two of his three games in charge since his October appointment and insists the short turnaround between the Hungary and Wales games should not harm his side.

"From a medical point of view, we are prepared and have no problem," said Hapal, the former Bayer Leverkusen midfielder who played against Wales manager Ryan Giggs in a 1994 World Cup qualifier in Cardiff.

"It will be hard for us physically, but mentally we are stronger. After the game against Hungary we got to bed at about 1am and we also travelled a lot.

"I don't know if it's fair but I can't do anything about it."

Wales are without influential midfielder Aaron Ramsey, who has returned to his club Arsenal for treatment to a thigh injury.

But Real Madrid forward Gareth Bale and Bournemouth striker David Brooks have been declared fit for the Cardiff City Stadium sell-out clash.

Hapal said: "They play as a group, and do not change their tactics if there is no Bale or Ramsey.

"They have good players, are very aggressive and run a lot.

"I watched them against Denmark, and despite losing the game they were stronger."



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