- Title: SLOVAKIA: FOOTBALL/SOCCER - Slovakia World Cup preview
- Date: 17th May 2010
- Summary: ZILINA, SLOVAKIA (MARCH 2, 2010) (REUTERS) SLOVAKIA PLAYERS SIGNING POSTERS IN HOTEL WEISS SIGNING POSTER
- Embargoed: 1st June 2010 13:00
- Location: Slovakia
- Country: Slovakia
- Topics: Sports
- Reuters ID: LVA7XJ97U9XIES2RLVJDCFZP4BJU
- Story Text: Slovakia are capable of giving most better-ranked teams in the World Cup finals a tough time but advancing past the group stage may be a tall order, especially if any of their key players are injured or suspended.
Slovakia sealed an automatic berth in next year's finals with a 1-0 win in Poland in their final group match, on a snow-covered pitch after an early own goal by the hosts. They had an impressive campaign, ending with top place in European Group Three, and enjoyed an emotional 2-1 win at former compatriots Czech Republic before suffering a temporary setback with a 2-0 home defeat to fellow qualifiers Slovenia in their penultimate game.
Factbox: World Cup record: Previous appearances in finals: none as independent nation (8 as part of former Czechoslovakia; finalists in 1934 and 1962, quarter-finalists in 1990).
Coach: Vladimir Weiss, former Czechoslovakia international. Won the Slovakian league title with MFK Petrzalka in 2005 and steered them to the Champions League group stage the same year. Took over as Slovakia coach in 2008 after a year at Russian side Saturn Ramenskoye and another brief spell with MFK. Son of former Slovakian footballer Vladimir Weiss and has a namesake son who plays for Manchester City.
Key players: Stanislav Sestak (Vfl Bochum). Forward. Born 16.12.1982 The team's top scorer in qualifying with six goals, crucially two of them in the dying minutes of a comeback 2-1 home win over Poland. A good finisher who has scored consistently for Bochum since he joined the Bundesliga team in 2007 from Slovakian side Zilina, where he won a league title and scored 49 goals in 99 appearances.
Marek Hamsik (Napoli). Midfielder. Born 27.7.1987 A versatile, high-scoring midfielder who made an immediate impact at Serie A side Napoli after joining them in June 2008 from fellow Italians Brescia, where he scored 10 goals in 40 matches in the second division in the 2006-07 season. Has scored eight goals in 30 appearances for his country, two of them in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.
Squad: Goalkeepers: Jan Mucha (Legia Warsaw), Dusan Kuciak (Vaslui), Lubos Kamenar (Nantes), Dusan Permis (Dundee United).
Defenders: Peter Pekarik (Wolfsburg), Martin Petras (Cesena), Martin Skrtel (Liverpool), Lubomir Michalik (Leeds United), Jan Durica (Lokomotiv Moscow), Radoslav Zabavnik (Mainz), Marek Cech (West Bromwich Albion), Tomas Hubocan (Zenit St. Petersburg), Kornel Salata (Slovan Bratislava).
Midfielders: Kamil Kopunek (Spartak Trnava), Jan Kozak (Timisoara), Juraj Kucka (Sparta Prague), Miroslav Karhan (Mainz), Marek Sapara (Ankaragucu), Mario Pecalka (MSK Zilina), Stanislav Sestak (Vfl Bochum), Marek Hamsik (Napoli), Vladimir Weiss (Manchester City), Miroslav Stoch (Chelsea), Dusan Svento (Salzburg), Zdeno Strba (Skoda Xanthi).
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