Sport Soccer

Thursday 22 March 2018

Slovaks pledge to do Ireland a favour -- but only at a price

Cathal Dervan, IN ZILINA

Slovakian defender Marek Cech has issued the European Championship statement of intent all Ireland fans want to hear, but his bailout offer to Giovanni Trapattoni comes with a heavy price.

Cech has confirmed that the Slovakians will do their level best to beat Russia and do Ireland a favour tomorrow night. All they want in return is a draw between Ireland and Armenia in Dublin next Tuesday night, a result that could potentially do Trapattoni no good at all.

A slight injury doubt for his country's must-win clash with Russia, Cech is anxious to do the right thing for Ireland as well as for Slovakia in Zilina tomorrow.

He said as much in the tourist resort of Senec yesterday as the Slovakian players made their final public utterances before the pivotal Friday night fixtures in the Euro qualifiers.

Still known to most Irish fans for the late equaliser in Stephen Ireland's final international appearance back in 2007 in Bratislava, Cech knows well the significance of tomorrow night's action here in the town that is the centre of car giant Kia's European operations.

"We can beat Russia and we will be doing our best to beat Russia, but we need Ireland to do us a favour as well and draw with Armenia next Tuesday night," said the Turkish based Cech, now plying his trade with Trabzonspor after his release by West Brom.

"We will do everything to beat Russia simply because it is a game we must win for Slovakia before we win it for anyone else.

"After failing to score in Dublin and then losing at home to Armenia, this is a big, big game for us and one we have got to win.

"It will not be easy because Russia are a very good side, as everyone who has played them knows, and a draw on Friday night would probably be good enough for them with only a home game against Andorra to come.

"But I promise you, we will be trying everything to win the match. That will do Ireland a favour, but we want to swap the favour and see them draw against Armenia."

Such a return may be beneficial to Cech, but it is not certain to be any use to Trapattoni, with the top of the Group B table as delicately poised as Ireland's presidential race.

The one certainty to follow a Slovakian win against Russia tomorrow is that Ireland can then win the group by beating Andorra away and Armenia at home in their final two matches.

If they adhere to Cech's wishes, however, and beat Andorra, but draw with Armenia, they could potentially finish third in the race, with Slovakia topping the group and Russia second, simply because of the head-to-head between the two Eastern European outfits.

Just to guarantee the confusion, as Cech highlighted, the Armenians are still a live danger to Irish and Slovakian hopes if they add six points to the 14 they currently enjoy.

One man not all that concerned by the mathematics, although he is acutely aware of the need to beat Russia tomorrow night, is Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel, who has more pressing matters on his mind.

Slovakia have been in camp since the weekend as they look to atone for last month's 4-0 defeat at home to Armenia and the scoreless draw in Dublin.

But Skrtel only arrived from England just ahead of yesterday morning's open training session after manager Vladimir Weiss gave him permission to spend time at home on Merseyside with his heavily pregnant partner Barbora.

"I am very nervous about the baby and hope that the baby waits until after I am finished with the match against Russia," said Skrtel on his arrival to the team's regular base in Senec.

Sticking with the expectant theme, Skrtel then admitted it was time for his team to deliver the big result they need to stay alive in this European Championships, just over a year after their World Cup heroics in South Africa.

The Anfield ace conceded: "We had this group in our hands, but we let it slip by failing to score in Dublin and then conceding four second-half goals against Armenia after missing four or five chances against them.

"All we can do is beat Russia and Macedonia and hope that that is enough depending on what Ireland do in their final two games."

Irish Independent

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