Slovakia, led by Coach Vladimir Weiss, arrive at South Africa 2010 after surprising everyone in qualification by topping their group. The country was created in 1993 after their separation from Czechoslovakia and so this will be their first ever World Cup tournament as an independent nation. Like their country, the squad the Slovaks bring to the World Cup is extremely young.
Their hopes at the tournament rest on the shoulders of the diminutive Marek Hamsik (Napoli), the outrageously talented 22-year-old who many worldwide soccer pundits believe is destined for a bright future in the game. Team Captain, Hamsik is a skilful midfielder who is equally adept at controlling the game from the centre of the field as he is at getting into the box to score vital goals using his exceptional finishing abilities. Another key player for Slovakia is Martin Skrtel. The Liverpool defender has adapted well to the Premier League and has shown his class against the many international soccer stars that grace England’s top division. Skrtel is a dominating figure in central defense and has the pace to match his strength and stature.
Two standout youngsters to keep an eye on in South Africa are the Coach’s son of the same name, Vladimir Weiss (Manchester City) and Miroslav Stoch (Chelsea). Weiss spent the majority of this season on loan at Bolton Wanderers in the Premier League but has a bright future with Manchester City where the left-footed forward is considered to be a legend in the making. Miroslav Stoch is a name that many in worldwide soccer might not be familiar with, but amongst soccer coaches and those inside the game, the Chelsea attacking midfielder has long been noted for his brilliant dribbling ability and speed. Stoch is coming to the World Cup off a season-long loan at FC Twente where he helped the team win Holland’s top division, the Eredivisie.
Without a doubt, Slovakia’s squad goes to South Africa 2010 boasting some brilliant young talent. The key for Coach Weiss will be ensuring that Hamsik has the freedom in the middle of the field to dictate play. You can expect to see many teams singling out Hamsik by man-marking him, which would certainly stifle Slovakia’s game. Thus, their over-reliance on the talented Napoli man could be their undoing in South Africa.
This Slovakia team has a great chance of really causing an upset at this World Cup. Their results in qualifying show that they’re very consistent and can defeat far more experienced teams relatively comfortably. It is not beyond the realm of possibility to suggest Slovakia would make it out of the group stages, but going any further than the second round will be tough for this young group of players.
Prediction: Second Round Finish.
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