Euro 2016 team-by-team guide: Everything you need to know Slovakia
Kevin Palmer gives us the lowdown on the Slovakia.
Group B fixtures
- June 11th: Wales in Bordeaux
- June 15th: Russia in Lille
- June 20th: England in Saint-Etienne
COACH: Jan Kozak
This 62-year-old tactician plated in the 1980 European Championships as a midfielder for Czechoslovakia and he has also coached in the Champions League during his time in charge of Slovak side Kosice.
His success in guiding Slovakia to a second place finish in their qualifying pool included a famous victory against reigning European champions Spain and they showed enough in their 2-2 draw against the Republic of Ireland in March to suggest they could be a dark horse to watch at Euro 2016. Kozak is likely to deploy a 4-2-3-1 formation that relies heavily on their experienced defensive line holding firm.
STAR MAN: Marek Hamsik (Napoli)
Top scorer in his nation’s qualifying campaign with five goals, Hamsik has been the shining star of Slovakian football for some time and he heads into Euro 2016 on the back of another solid season of performances in Serie A with Napoli.
He has spent nearly all of his career away from his homeland, first rising to prominence with Benfica before sealing a move to Naples in 2007. At the age of 28, the star turn who will be deployed as the creative hub of the Slovakia side this summer has plenty of expectations on his shoulder, but Hamsik has got used to carrying that burden of responsibility in recent years.
LOOK OUT FOR: Martin Skrtel (Liverpool)
Not at his best for the Liverpool this season, Slovakia captain Skrtel is being tipped to be one of the players moved on by Reds boss Jurgen Klopp this summer.
However, he remains a central cog in his national team set-up and alongside with his ageing central defensive partner Jan Durica, Skrtel will be expected to keep the defensive door shut for Slovakia and he certainly has the experience to handle the big occasion in France this summer. Now 31, it was Skrtel who led the celebrations as his side qualified for Euro 2016.
WILD CARD: Robert Mak (PAOK Salonika)
Pace is the most valuable asset any player can possess in the modern game and this one-time Manchester City graduate has plenty to spare as he roams down the left flank of the Slovak side.
An FA Youth Cup winner with Man City in 2008, this talented performer had a spell in Germany with Nuremberg before finding a home for his talents with Greek side PAOK. Mak chips in with the odd important goal, but his primary goal in this Slovak side will be to offer up the ammunition for lead striker Adam Nemec (Willem II) and attacking midfielder Hamsik to show their class.
VERDICT: There is reason to belief Slovakia could make their mark on their debut appearance in the European championship finals, with coach Kozak impressively blending players based in the Slovak league with a handful of high profile star names over the last couple of years.
Much depends on the form and fitness of match winner Hamsik, who is expected to pull the creative strings. Meanwhile, Juraj Kucka (AC Milan) has a vital role to play at the base of the midfield as he is the first line of defence and often the opening source for attacks. If Slovakia’s star men perform, they could make it out of their group and into the latter stages.
Goalkeepers: Matúš Kozáčik (Viktoria Plzeň), Ján Mucha (Slovan Bratislava), Ján Novota (Rapid Wien).
Defenders: Peter Pekarík (Hertha Berlin), Milan Škriniar (Sampdoria), Martin Škrtel (Liverpool), Norbert Gyömbér (Roma), Ján Ďurica (Lokomotiv Moskva), Kornel Saláta (Slovan Bratislava), Tomáš Hubočan (Dinamo Moskva), Dušan Švento (Köln).
Midfielders: Marek Hamšík (Napoli), Juraj Kucka (AC Milan), Miroslav Stoch (Bursaspor), Vladimír Weiss (Al-Gharafa), Róbert Mak (PAOK), Patrik Hrošovský (Viktoria Plzeň), Ján Greguš (Jablonec), Viktor Pečovský (Žilina), Stanislav Šesták (Ferencváros), Ondrej Duda (Legia Warszawa).
Forwards: Michal Ďuriš (Viktoria Plzeň), Adam Nemec (Willem II).