Ireland can expect nothing easy from scrapper Weiss
They are the obstacle standing in Ireland's way tomorrow evening. Daniel McDonnell looks at the Slovakian side that will present a stern test at the Aviva Stadium.
Published 01/09/2011 | 05:00
Vladimir Weiss lives a different lifestyle to Giovanni Trapattoni. The Slovakian boss decided he needed another job to accompany his international duties after finding himself bored last winter, so he took the reins at Slovan Bratislava. They eliminated Roma from the Europa League last week; a significant achievement.
Weiss led the Slovaks to last summer's World Cup and was eventually praised for their performance there. Although, he can be a fiery character when there are negative vibes coming his way.
After a slow start in the form of a draw with New Zealand, Weiss called his critics 'f**king faggots' and challenged them to a fight. Tread carefully, so. His son, of the same name, is a key member of the Slovakian dressing-room and has just completed a season long loan from Manchester City to Espanyol.
After last month's friendly draw in Dublin, Croatian boss Slaven Bilic warned Ireland that Slovakia are more dangerous opponents on foreign soil than they are at home. The point was that Weiss is capable of setting up a team that can defend well and counter attack with purpose. Certainly, there are many examples. They went to Moscow last September and won with a similar approach and their shock World Cup elimination of Italy was built on the same principles.
Wins away to Poland, Northern Ireland and Czech Republic propelled them to South Africa in the first place. Marco Tardelli is aware of the Slovaks' reputation and believes Ireland fans might have to be patient, although, if Weiss has watched the DVD of Russia's trip to Dublin, he may consider the benefits of a positive approach.
Last month's success over Austria was a badly needed boost for Weiss & Co. Question marks had been raised after a dismal set of performances in the early part of 2011. The Slovaks lost friendlies to Luxembourg and Denmark and could only manage single-goal victories in their two meetings with Andorra.
Therefore, going to Klagenfurt and registering a win has lifted spirits, particularly as they were without a number of key players for that fixture. Miroslav Stoch, who delivered the decisive strike in Moscow last year, was left out of the team for disciplinary reasons.
THE HAMSIK FACTOR
While Premier League fans will be looking out for Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel (above), the Slovakian star man is Napoli playmaker Marek Hamsik. He is just 24-years-old, but already the captain of his country. Much of the creative responsibility falls to Hamsik. Therefore, the news that he is struggling with a hamstring problem is a huge boost for the Irish camp. If the visitors are content to take a defensive approach then they will be relying on Hamsik to set the wheels in motion further up the pitch.
Some critics in Slovakia have insinuated that their skipper is more concerned with his club commitments than international duty, although Hamsik hit back with a strong display in Austria. Arsenal have monitored his progress.
Robert Vittek missed the 1-1 draw in Zilina last October, with Weiss enduring a striking crisis before that encounter that Ireland failed to really capitalise upon.
Vittek was central to Slovakia's achievements in South Africa. The 6' 2" frontman scored four times in the tournament, with his physical approach unsettling the Italians. On an afternoon in Ellis Park that Fabio Cannavaro might still have nightmares about, Vittek scored twice.
Irish fans might be wondering about Robbie Keane's condition after a switch to LA Galaxy that has polarised opinion. Vittek, on the other hand, has spent the summer a free agent after parting company with his Turkish employers.
The 29-year-old spent his early days at Slovan Bratislava, before stints with Nuremberg and Lille. It has been mooted that Weiss could drop Vittek -- who can still join a club after the close of the European transfer window -- due to concerns about a lack of fitness.
Nevertheless, if he does cross the white line, Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger can expect a bruising evening.