Team Profile: Slovakia
Colours: White shirts, white shorts, blue socks.
Previous World Cup Appearances: 8 as Czechoslovakia: 1934, 1938, 1954, 1958, 1962, 1970, 1982, 1990. None as independent nation
Best World Cup performance: Runners-up in 1962 as Czechoslovakia
Coach: Vladimir Weiss
Most capped player: Miroslav Karhan 96
Top scorer: Szilard Nemeth 22
FIFA Ranking (Apr 10) : 38
Slovakia was a part of Czechoslovakia from 1918 until 1992. The Slovak players always featured for the Czechoslovakian national team. The Czech national team qualified for eight World Cups (1934 – 2nd place, 1938, 1954, 1962-2nd place, 1970, 1982, 1990). The following Slovakian players were members of the squad in the 1962 World Cup in Chile: Schroif, Popluhar, Kvasnak, Adamec, Stibrani, and Scherer.
The last World cup that Czechoslovakia participated in was Italia `90. The team progressed to the quarter-finals and lost to eventual champions Germany 1-0. From the 17 national team players, eight were Slovakian: Kocian, Bielik, Kinier, Chovanec, Moravcík, Griga, Weiss, and Luhovy. Slovakia turned into an independent Republic in 1993. This is their first World Cup participation as an independent nation.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
The Slovakians were not the favourites in their World Cup qualifying group but head coach Vladimir Weiss brought immediately success to the squad. His men played with self-confidence and won their first match of the campaign against Northern Ireland and then picked up a massive three points against Poland.
The key to their eventual qualification in Group 3 was the victory against the Czech Republic in Prague. Their second victory against Northern Ireland in Belfast was the most confident Slovakian performance.
The next match was at home against Slovenia and the encounter ended with disappointed loss for the Slovaks. They shook off that defeat and travelled to Chorzow, Poland where they took an early lead in the third minute and hung on to beat the Poles and punched their ticket to the World Cup in South Africa.
Every member of the national team plays their club football outside of Slovakia in countries such as England, Germany, Netherlands and Russia. The players learned to play at a high speed. The pillar of the team`s strength is in defence, led by the goalkeeper Mucha and central defender Martin Skrtel (Liverpool). Slovakia are no slouches upfront either as they lead their group with the most goals scored.
It seems to be, that the most serious weakness of the Slovakian national team is the limited quantity of star players with top level international experience. If two or three of the squad`s high end players were injured, then Weiss would struggle to replace them.
Vladimír Weiss is one of the most respected and celebrated figures in Slovakian football He was born into a family with a rich football tradition. His father played for the Czechoslovakian national team. Weiss himself was also member of national team in Italia `90. His son – Vladimír Weiss Jr. also plays in the national team and plies his trade in England for Manchester City.
Martin Skrtel (Liverpool, England): He plays as a centre-back for Liverpool. He started his career for Slovakian outfit Trencín. He left the club for Zenit St Petersburg in Russia. He turned into a solid defender and attracted the interest of a plethora of clubs and he decided to sign for Liverpool. He is fast and dominant in personal duels. He is good in the air and is a vital member of the Slovakian squad.
Marek Hamsik (Napoli, Italy): Hamsik started his career with Slovan Bratislava. He transferred to the Italian outfit Brescia when he was 19-years old. At Napoli, he became one of the best midfielders in Serie A. He is technically gifted and plays well in big games.
Miroslav Karhan (Mainz, Germany): The veteran has earned 96 caps for the national team. He began his career with Spartak Trnava and then moved to Sevilla. He also played for Besiktas and Wolfsburg and now currently plies his trade for Mainz 05 as a tough-tackling midfielder.
BEST FOOTBALLING MOMENT
The best footballing moment probably came in the 83rd minute of the qualifying game with Czech Republic in Prague. With the score deadlocked at 1-1, Jendrísek scored after a great solo run to give Slovakia a Herculean 2-1 victory. This was Slovakia`s first against Czech Republic in their capital.
OFF THE PITCH
Famous For: Being a former part of Czechoslovakia. Its capital, Bratislava, is a true Central European crossroads, located at the border of both Hungary and Austria.
Most likely to: Be confused with Slovenia by all manner of hapless fans and pundits. In a positive sense, they`re likely to surprise the world.
WORLD CUP OBJECTIVE
The expectations of Slovakian soccer fans are rather modest. Getting out of the group stage will be a huge success.
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