Italian Serie A News, Results, Analysis and Features on Football Soccer

Jay Scardina On June - 3 - 2010

World Cup 2010 Focus: Slovakia

One of the true underdogs of the World Cup, Slovakia, were written off by many before their qualification campaign even started. With teams like the Czech Republic and Poland in their qualifying group, no one expected Slovakia to be at the top of group. With a win in Poland in October of last year, they secured their ticket to the World Cup for the first time since Czechoslovakia split into two separate nations. The team is full of young players who may lack World Cup experience, but may make up for that with youth and speed. Slovakia got a little lucky with their first World Cup draw. Before I get into that lets take a look at some of the key players and the coach for the Slovakia side.

Vladimir Weiss may be a name some remember from the days of the Czechoslovakia national team. Weiss was a great player during his time, and is now the youngest coach of any World Cup team in South Africa. This will be his first time coaching a team at the World Cup, but he has experience as a player in the 1990 World Cup. Weiss’s son, Vladimir Jr., is also on the team. He was playing for Bolton, but was recently transferred to Manchester City, who have had their problems but will be in the Europa League next season. Weiss has started in the last 4 qualifying games for the national side, and his speed should help them get the ball into other teams halves. Another player for Slovakia that may sound familiar is Martin Skrtel. The Liverpool defender is sometimes known for picking up yellow cards, but there is no doubt he can be a key player in the Slovakian defense. Between the goal posts will be goalkeeper Jan Mucha, who was playing for Legia in the Polish league, but will be moving to Everton next season. Mucha turned down several offers from other clubs for a chance to play in the Premiere League. Serie A fans will recognize Marek Hamsik playing in the midfield. He has been one of Napoli’s star players, and is always a threat from distance to goalkeepers. Hamsik’s experience with many of the Italian squad players may give Slovakia an edge in their final group game against the defending champions. Another midfielder that will not be afraid to shoot from distance will be Miroslav Stoch. Die hard Chelsea fans may vaguely recognize the name, since he was not on the pitch often with them. However, after moving to the Netherlands and playing for FC Twente, he started every week. The experience has given him the confidence he needed to earn a spot on the Slovakian national team. A player to watch up front will be Stanislav Sestak. During the qualification games he was their top goal scorer with 6 goals. He scored both goals against Poland in one of the qualification games that became a turning point in their World Cup campaign. Although Slovakia doesn’t have the biggest stars in world football, they should not be underestimated in their group.

Slovakia is in Group F, which includes Paraguay, New Zealand, and Italy. Their first game will be against New Zealand, and a win against the Kiwis will be a big boost for them. By the time Slovakia play their last group game against Italy their World Cup fate may already be sealed. Italy may look like their toughest opponent on paper, but they have failed to impress many. Compared to the Slovakian side their players are much older. I think that Paraguay will be Slovakia’s toughest opponent. I say this because both teams are pretty evenly matched. Both teams have young players who are able to move the ball fast. With the World Cup being so unpredictable, the youth and speed of the Slovakian national team could be the edge they need to get past their group stage. The only thing that the team really lacks is experience at the World Cup. At this point many are not expecting them to make it past the group stage with Paraguay and Italy as the favorites to move on. Since this is the World Cup, we all know that underdogs have just as much of a chance as top rated countries. WIth the level of talent on their squad Slovakia could get 2nd place in their group. If Slovakia make it past the group stage, it will be a huge accomplishment for them and their country.

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