Team Profile: Slovakia
- Coach: Vladimir Weiss
- Goalkeepers: Jan Mucha (Legia Warsaw/Poland), Dusan Kuciak (Vaslui/Romania), Dusan Pernis (Dundee United/Scotland)
- Defenders: Peter Pekarik (Wolfsburg/Germany), Martin Petras (Cesena/Italy), Martin Skrtel (Liverpool/England), Jan Durica (Hannover/Germany), Radoslav Zabavnik (Mainz/Germany), Marek Cech (West Bromwich Albion/England), Ko rnel Salata (Slovan Bratislava)
- Midfielders: Kamil Kopunek (Spartak Trnava), Jan Kozak (Timisoara/Romania), Juraj Kucka (Sparta Prague), Marek Sapara (Ankaragucu/Turkey), Marek Hamsik (Napoli/Italy), Vladimir Weiss (Manchester City /England), Miroslav Stoch (Chelsea/England), Zdeno Strba (Xanthi/Greece)
- Forwards: Erik Jendrisek (Schalke/Germany), Robert Vittek (Ankaragucu/Turkey), Martin Jakubko (Saturn Moscow/Russia), Filip Holosko (Besiktas/Turkey), Stanislav Sestak (Bochum/Germany)
Style of play: Speed and quick ball movement are the key factors to coach Vladimir Weiss's diamond-shaped 4-4-2 formation. Moving the ball forward down the wings, via wide midfielders Vladimir Weiss (the coach's son) and Miroslav Stoch, and through the middle through central midfielder Marek Hamsik, is how Slovakia creates most of its scoring chances. Hamsik will often pillage forward on a defence-splitting run before unleashing his powerful shot on goal. Or he'll deliver a killer pass for forwards Robert Vittek and Stanislav Sestak to run onto. Miroslav Karhan hangs back as the midfield pivot, setting up shop just in front of the defence, allowing Hamsik to fulfill his offensive duties.
1st round matches:
- June 15 vs. New Zealand in Rustenburg
- June 20 vs. Paraguay in Bloemfontein
- June 24 vs. Italy in Johannesburg
Projected starting lineup (4-4-2): (GK) Jan Mucha - (D) Martin Skrtel, Peter Pekarik, Radoslav Zabavnik, Jan Durica - (M) Marek Hamsik, Vladimir Weiss, Miroslav Stoch, Zdeno Strba - (F) Robert Vittek, Stanislav Sestak
- Power and strength. Although capable of playing stylish and technical soccer, the Slovaks are known for their hard physical work in midfield. They run themselves ragged in closing down opponents, and then move the ball quickly up field on the counterattack.
- The spine: Slovakia has outstanding and experienced players at the key positions - from central defender Martin Skrtel, to central midfielder Marek Hamsik, to forward Stanislav Sestak. A solid spine is the foundation for any team to succeed, and Slovakia's is strong.
- Speed: Although noted for their power and strength, Slovakia boasts plenty of quickness, especially on the wings where Vladimir Weiss and Miroslav Stoch give real width to the attack with their pace.
- Top players out of practice: There's no doubt this is a team with talented players. The problem is that too many key players, most notably Martin Skrtel and Vladimir Weiss, have been bench-warmers with their pro clubs all season. Rustiness and fitness is bound to be an issue.
- Tough group: A win over New Zealand in their opener seems assured, but then Slovakia has two tough games against Paraguay (coming off a strong qualification campaign) and Italy (the defending champions.
- Inexperience: This World Cup marks the first time Slovakia has qualified for a major tournament since it separated from Czechoslovakia in 1993. The Slovaks' lack of international experience will hurt them as they try to fight their way through the group stage.
Players to watch:
- Marek Hamsik - He's Slovakia's best player, and one of the most unheralded midfielders in the game today. Hamsik's skill and charisma have earned him praise as an elite box-to-box midfielder in the mould of Patrick Vieira. He'll be one of the young players to watch in South Africa.
- Stanislav Sestak - Sestak is always in motion, flowing from the striker's position upfront to the right side of midfield. Although that sometimes means his teammates can't anticipate his capricious runs, Sestak is likely to be in open space.
- Martin Skrtel - A tough and physical defender who distinguished himself in the qualifiers, making up for a less than impressive season with Liverpool.
Key injuries/squad omissions: Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel was picked by coach Vladimir Weiss, despite not having played since breaking his foot in February. Strikers Filip Holosko (leg) and Robert Vittek (knee) were also called up, even though they are injured. Slovakia will be without its most experienced player, midfielder Miroslav Karhan, who was ruled out with an Achilles' tendon injury.
Prognosis: First-round exit. Italy is the heavy favourite to win Group F, which means Slovakia will battle it out with Paraguay for second place. On paper the Slovaks have enough to edge past the South Americans, but Paraguay is coming off an impressive qualifying campaign and has been here before. Slovakia is set to make its World Cup debut and lacks major tournament experience. It could be that the occasion may be too much for them to handle.
ROAD TO SOUTH AFRICA
- Current FIFA ranking: #25
- Qualification route: Slovakia finished in first place (22 points) in Europe's Group 3 ahead of Slovenia (20 points).
- Key to qualification: Style and strength. The Slovaks play an effective brand of soccer, combining stylish attacking play with hard physical work in midfield. They run themselves ragged in closing down opponents, and then move the ball quickly up field on the counter-attack.
- Crucial result: A 1-0 win over Poland (Oct. 14, 2009 in Chorzow) clinched first place in the group and allowed the Slovaks to qualify for the World Cup for the first time.
- Qualifying record: 10 games played, 7 wins, 1 draw, 2 losses
- Goals for: 22
- Goals against: 10
- Top goal-scorer in qualifying: Stanislav Sestak (6)
Qualifying results: (home team listed first)
- Sept. 6, 2008 - Slovakia 2, Northern Ireland 1
- Sept. 10, 2008 - Slovenia 2, Slovakia 1
- Oct. 11, 2008 - San Marino 1, Slovakia 3
- Oct. 15, 2008 - Slovakia 2, Poland 1
- April 1, 2009 - Czech Republic 1, Slovakia 2
- June 6, 2009 - Slovakia 7, San Marino 0
- Sept. 5, 2009 - Slovakia 2, Czech Republic 2
- Sept. 9, 2009 - Northern Ireland 0, Slovakia 2
- Oct. 10, 2009 - Slovakia 0, Slovenia 2
- Oct. 14, 2009 - Poland 0, Slovakia 1
This is the first time Slovakia has qualified for the World Cup.
World Cup track record
From 1930 to 1994, Slovakia supplied players to Czechoslovakia. Slovakia and the Czech Republic became separate nations in 1992, following the division of Czechoslovakia. The Slovakian national team and the Czech Republic played their first games in 1994.
- 1930 - Did not enter
- 1934 - Runners-up
- 1938 - Quarter-finals
- 1950 - Did not enter
- 1954 - First round
- 1958 - First round
- 1962 - Runners-up
- 1966 - Did not qualify
- 1970 - First round
- 1974 - Did not qualify
- 1978 - Did not qualify
- 1982 - First round
- 1986 - Did not qualify
- 1990 - Quarter-finals
- 1994 - Did not qualify
- 1998 - Did not qualify
- 2002 - Did not qualify
- 2006 - Did not qualify
- Number of Previous World Cup Appearances: 8
- All-time record: 30 games played, 11 wins, 5 draws, 14 losses
- Goals for: 44
- Goals against: 45
- Biggest victory: 6-1 vs. Argentina in 1958
- Biggest defeat: 5-0 vs. Austria in 1954
- Overall top scorer: Oldrich Nejedly (7 goals)
- Most appearances: Ladislav Novak (12 matches)
- Hosted the World Cup: Never
- FIFA member since: 1993
- All-time caps leaders: Miroslav Karhan (95)
- All-time leading scorer: Szilard Nemeth (22 goals)
Notable Achievements (Czechoslovakia)
- European Champions: 1976
- Under-19 European champions: 1968
- Under-17 European Champions: 1990
- Olympic gold medal: 1980
- Olympic silver medal: 1964
- Josef Masopust: Hard-working midfielder who rose to fame in the 1960s with Czechoslovakia. Masopust scored 10 goals in 63 games for his country, saving his best performances for the 1962 World Cup in Chile when he led a talented Czechoslovakian team to the finals against Brazil. Voted European player of the year in 1962 and considered by many as the best Czechoslovakian player of his generation.
- Oldrich Nejedly: One of the most explosive forwards on the pre-war era, Nejedly played in two World Cups and finished as the tournament's top scorer (five goals) when he led Czechoslovakia to the finals in 1934 against Italy. Scored 28 goals in 42 games for his country from 1931-38 and would have played more, but he was never the same player after breaking his leg at the 1938 World Cup.