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Spot My Team at Euro 2016: Slovakia National Football Team

Samuel VilkovskyMy name is Samuel Vilkovsky and I am from Levoca, Slovakia. I study at the Technical University in Kosice. As a big football fan, I currently contribute to several football pages on Bundesliga, Premier League and Serie A topics on facebook. I work with a friend of mine, and we plan to establish our own football website one day.

Slovakia FlagSlovakia has reached its first ever European Championship in its 23-year-long history as an independent country. Before getting separated from Czech Republic, we did play in a few European Championships as Czechoslovakia national football team. In fact, we qualified for the final tournament only three times, but we ended up winning medals each time, taking the third place in 1960 and 1980, and famously winning the trophy in 1976. It was the year, when Antonin Panenka illustrated his famous chipped penalty and helped his team win the final against West Germany. 

After a disappointing qualification run for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, our team was more than hungry for success. Slovakia was drawn into a qualification group together with Ukraine, Spain, Belarus, Luxembourg and FYR Macedonia. Not many pundits were giving us high chances for straight qualification for Euro 2016. Our most successful European qualifying campaign started with a 1-0 win in Ukraine on September 8, 2014. It continued with the famous win against the defending European champions Spain, then a winning run of six consecutive wins, four of which in the qualification and two in friendlies. Earning just a single point in the next three matches against Spain, Ukraine and Belarus, we needed at least another point against Luxembourg to secure the second place in the group and earn an automatic qualification to France 2016. A 4-2 win in that match was a beautiful ending to the first part of our journey. Second behind Spain, we earned 22 points, scored 17 goals and conceded 8 in 10 matches. Now we were ready for the next part – the final tournament.

Jan Kozak, who played 55 matches for Czechoslovakia national team, had four spells as a manager at FC Kosice before getting the job of Slovakia national team head coach in 2013. He won two Slovak league titles with FC Kosice and helped the team enter the Champions League group stage in 1998. Coaching the national team has always been Kozak’s dream, which he had nearly given up with by March 2013: “I have always wanted to be the manager of Slovakia national football team. But now I am probably too old for it and it is probably not going to happen.” 4 months after this statement Kozak was appointed as a new coach of Slovakia. 

He has been successful ever since he took over. He led the national team to nine wins in a row (September 2014 - June 2015). Despite his aggressive mentality and explosiveness, he achieved something that no Slovak coach had done before - sending our country to a European football Championship.

Our star is our captain Marek Hamsik, 28. He has scored 98 SSC Napoli and Slovakia captain Marek Hamsikgoals in 403 matches for his current club SSC Napoli. He made his international debut in February 2007 and has scored 17 goals in 85 caps since then. There are no doubts, that our key to success is hidden in feet of Marek Hamsik. Once the youngest ever captain of Slovakia national football team, Hamsik has long been a major Serie A star. One can hardly find a better playmaker than Hamsik in Italy. 2,5 key passes per game is an adequate evidence. This is the highest number among all Serie A players with at least five appearances this season. We can easily call him a living Napoli legend. He is the player with third most appearances for the club. Only 17 goals separate him from turning into the best goalscorer of SSC Napoli ever, beating the record set by the iconic Diego Maradona. Marek’s play was actually demolished by Rafa Benitez, who didn´t show enough faith to the captain. Things changed after the arrival of Maurizio Sarri, when not only Hamsik, but also the whole team started to play well. 

Marek Hamsik was being criticized for his performances in the national team, mostly unfairly, but he has shown his full potential during this qualification and given a decent answer to all of his critics. The new coach Jan Kozak played a big role in captain‘s improvement, giving him more freedom, which resulted in Marek becoming our top scorer of this qualification campaign. 

Ondrej Duda of SlovakiaThe player with a potential of a breakthrough at this Euro is Ondrej Duda, 21, who definitely is one of Slovakia’s best youngsters. Jan Kozak, then club coach at MFK Kosice, promoted him to the A-team when Duda was 17. The player decided to move to Legia Warsawa in 2014, where he has already played more than 90 matches. Duda has earned nine international caps so far. This number could have been much higher, had he not have a competitor like Marek Hamsik on the attacking midfielder position. Duda has also turned into a target for transfer rumors, according to which the talented nr. 10 is likely to make a big move next season. But first he has to confirm his talent in front of scouts from all over the world at the upcoming Euro. If you haven’t heard of Ondrej Duda yet, then it’s good to know that he is definitely the player you should focus on.

The Slovakian tactics is quite simple. We do not play the most beautiful football, even though we have got some quality players in the team. Our play is based on strong defense, long balls into space, where wingers are believed to be ready for action, or trying to find our target man up front. Both our wingers are quick and technically gifted, so it would be stupid not to use their skills. Our biggest star Marek Hamsik is positioned between them. His role is to add a bit of creativity and unpredictability to our game.

Our team does have just one particular strength - team spirit. A great group of people has gathered in our football national team this time and this is presumably the reason behind our success. Players are prepared to fight for each other on the pitch. Even the youngsters, whose biggest strengths are flair and pace, are ready to help the defense and give up the more entertaining offensive positions to help the team. Even though, the players meet each other only few times a year, all of them act like a band of long-term friends.

Unfortunately, not everything works that well. If asked to name the main weakness of our team, I would surely name the attack. Four different strikers were tested up front during the qualification campaign, but only one of them turned to be able to score - Adam Nemec. His three goals sound to be a fairly good result, but it is just not good enough for a striker that is supposed to have ambitions to lead our squad to success. Michal Duris, Robert Vittek and Martin Jakubko have also taken part in earning tickets to Euro 2016, but none of them has been able to hit the back of the net.

In my opinion, our chances to leave a mark at Euro Slovakia's Miroslav Stoch scoring the winning goal against Spain2016 are fairly high. Our opponents in the group are definitely playable. England is famous for not giving peak performances at such competitions, Wales, just like us, are newbies of the tournament, and we have experience of defeating Russia a couple of times in recent history. So hopefully it is going to happen again and we are going to qualify from our group, as we did in World Cup 2010.

Many top quality squads will be trying to win the tournament. Germany, Spain, Italy and England have impressive squads with lots of famous and in-form footballers, but as things stand, I can imagine the hosts France lift the trophy on July 10.


Physical attributes


Technical attributes

ball control
free kicks
long throws
shooting accuracy
shooting power
slide tackle
stand tackle
aerial control
one on ones
off the area
penalty saving

Mental attributes

tactical awareness
work rate
positioning in the line
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