Mar 27 2011

Andorra 0-1 Slovakia. How do we react?

Published by at 10:12 pm under International and tagged:

So how do we react? Be happy that Slovakia at least won and look forward to Tuesday and beyond? Or bemoan the fact that it wasn’t as convincing as we’d hoped and fret that, playing like that, they’ve no chance of troubling better sides? My inclination, conveniently forgetting the alcohol-fuelled optimism which prompted Friday’s prediction of a 4-0 win, is towards the first response. A win is a win. And Russia drawing in Armenia is not a bad result either. All round, it wasn’t that bad a night.

I even feel positive about aspects of the performance in Andorra. In the first-half, Slovakia were completely on top. Kóňa justified his inclusion at the heart of the midfield by playing simple but accurate passes, Hamšík was inventive and the front four (Stoch, Vittek, Jendrišek and Šebo) caused the home side a succession of problems with their skill and movement. The goal showcased a lot of the things Slovakia did well in that first period. Hamšík rejected the option of a flighted free-kick into the box in favour of sliding the ball down the left channel to Vittek. Vittek turned and outmuscled his marker before hitting a low ball across the face of the goal to Šebo and the in-form Slovan striker reacted smartly to flick the ball past the keeper.

The half-time whistle would, I suspect, have brought a sense of deflation. Slovakia had been completely dominant but had only one goal to show for their efforts. A second just before the interval might have seen them take a greater sense of liberation into the second period. As it was, they seemed torn between the need to preserve the lead and the desire to increase it. Kóňa seemed to tire from about the 60th minute and Hamšík’s influence began to fade. I’m not going to be too critical of the Napoli man this time ; he might have been affected by the horrendous first-half tackle on him that could easily have broken his leg and should certainly have resulted in a red card for the perpetrator. It did surprise me, however, that Vladimir Weiss didn’t send on Kamil Kopúnek to give the midfield renewed energy.

Andorra, as the tackle on Hamšík and a later one on Peter Pekarík showed, were not afraid to use crude tactics to stop their opponents at times. Yet in certain respects, they played a legitimately clever game too. They didn’t go chasing an equaliser at too early a stage but, as the game wore on, began to prey on Slovakia’s anxiety at not having killed it off. For a bunch of part-timers and amateurs, their fitness levels were impressive as well. Despite being outclassed in the first-half, they closed-down diligently and enough of their players had sufficient energy to get forward in the last few minutes to cause Slovakia a few heart-stopping moments.

Overall, yes, I would like to have seen a more emphatic win for Slovakia. But they are not the first team in this group to struggle in Andorra and they did at least emerge with the three points. The first-half performance was as good as could have been asked for and deserved more than just the one goal. Besides the players already mentioned, Filip Lukšík made a fine debut at left-back and was one of the best players on the pitch. And Erik Jendrišek maintained a high level of performance over the whole 90 minutes. His work-rate was, yet again, prodigious and he produced occasional pieces of defence-splitting brilliance.

My thoughts are now turning to Tuesday night and the visit of Denmark. It would be interesting to see Lukšík given an opportunity against a genuinely decent side. I guess we’ll also see those who played little or no part in Andorra ; Kello, Saláta, Piroška, Kopúnek, Sapara (fitness permitting) and so on. The Danes might be feeling a little down after conceding a late equaliser in Norway and the home side, free of the pressure of needing to win, will be able to simply play and show what they can do. If, and it is an if, the Trnava public are able to forget their differences with all things Bratislava (and Žilina, Senica and everwhere else in the country) and just get behind Slovakia, it could be a good night. My Friday night optimism remains undimmed, even by Sunday evening sobriety.

James Baxter

5 responses so far

5 Responses to “Andorra 0-1 Slovakia. How do we react?”

  1.   britskibelasion 27 Mar 2011 at 10:55 pm

    Thanks James, appreciate the insight as I didn’t see any of the match [just Sebo's goal].

    Inclined to agree, all of us would have liked something more convincing, but if we’d have dropped points here we’d be almost out of it, so I feel a sense of relief and definitely happy to grab the 3 points and escape relatively unscathed.

    Russia dropping points definitely helps the cause. All setting itself up quite nicely for some seriously competitive matches at the end of the year!

    Was delighted to see Sebo score, and also the two Slovan lads Kiss & Kolcak on the scoresheet in the U21s 3-2 win over Finland. Also really pleased that Weiss gave debuts to the Senica players. That must definitely be a positive to take out of this match.

    Did the 100 or so travelling fans appear? Did they offer much fervent support or was it a fairly tame affair? Noticed the official attendance was around 863 or so. Hardly one to get Stoch & Hamsik’s pulces racing during the anthems. Let’s hope for at least 10x more on Tuesday night. And if we’re worried about how the Trnava public will welcome Filip Sebo, Weiss can always leave him out – that would be fine with me ;-)

  2.   James Baxteron 27 Mar 2011 at 11:14 pm

    If there were 800+ there, Slovakia had a lot more than 100. And yes, they made themselves heard. September and October will be exciting as you say.

    My hope for Tuesday? Sebo plays, runs himself into the ground, scores a couple, the Trnava crowd chant his name and he’s too knackered to do anything useful on Friday.

    It won’t happen of course. I think we’ll see Holosko and Piroska up front together, which would have its uses.

    The U21 game looked good but Mentel made a horrendous mistake – prime candidate for a youtube compilation, poor lad.

  3.   Stary Jazvecon 28 Mar 2011 at 3:11 am

    Apropos of nothing, why are Zilina and people from Zilina “šošoni”?

  4.   Stary Jazvecon 28 Mar 2011 at 3:14 am

    I was a bit too drunk to follow this game. The pitch was a bad joke, I would just call it off and award a kontumacia if that’s the best they can manage. Always been a Sebo fan, from his Zalka time, he was a goal machine for us. Somebody was just telling me he didnt make it a Rangers as he went off the rails with the high life, vicious rumour?

  5.   James Baxteron 28 Mar 2011 at 9:33 am

    I was too drunk to make a sensible prediction. Watched it (relatively) sober and it was far from easy. Get the 3 points and get out of there.

    Nobody seems to have a satisfactory explanation for the šošoni thing. I can tell you that there’s a Red Indian themed restaurant next to the ground (a bit tacky but the food is good and portions are huge) and that pre-match entertainment occasionally consists of people dressed as Red Indians galloping round the pitch on horses but that’s about all.

    Hadn’t heard that about Sebo but do recall (perhaps from a WSC season preview) that he was a kind of ironic cult hero up there. In the Corgon Liga, for you and for Slovan, he’s always reminded me of Steve Bull playing for Wolves in the lower divisions. Too fast, too strong, too good for the vast majority of defences.

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