Mar 29 2011

Slovakia v Denmark: Preview

Published by at 4:02 pm under International and tagged: , ,

Just over a year ago, Slovak football held its Player of the Year awards night two days before a home friendly against Norway. Tonight, 48 hours after the gongs were given out for 2010, it’s Slovakia v Denmark. Just to complete the symmetry, while Slovakia were making hard work of Andorra in Euro 2012 qualifying on Saturday, last year’s opponents were facing tonight’s ; it was 1-1 between the Norwegians and the Danes in Oslo.

There are differences, of course, between last year and tonight. Slovakia v Norway was played in Žilina, the awards bash having taken place next door to the Štadión pod Dubňom at the Holiday Inn. The Denmark game, in contrast, will be held in Trnava, half an hour or so up the road from Bratislava’s Hviezdoslav Theatre, the venue for Sunday’s ceremony.

The differences also extend to the atmosphere surrounding the Slovak squad. Egil Olsen’s team won 1-0 last March, dampening some of the anticipation surrounding the hosts’ upcoming World Cup appearance. After the game, Vladimir Weiss expressed the view that the awards ceremony had been an unwelcome distraction from his side’s preparations. It was a reasonable point, in part because the event had an air of self-congratulation about it; understandable, perhaps, given the still recent achievement of qualification for South Africa, but not conducive to gearing up to face such unyielding opponents as the Norwegians.

Going into the Denmark game, in contrast, the feeling is that Weiss’s team have to rediscover some self-belief. After a run of four games without a win, followed by the nervous victory in Andorra, they need to simply go out, unburdened by pressure, and play. Whether the awards night has any effect this time remains to be seen but, lent particular poignancy by the appearance of Ján Popluhar’s son to present the main award, it was certainly very different in tone from last year’s. Perhaps it has even provided the players with a legitimate diversion from what awaits them this evening and their performance will be better as a result. If that is true, Weiss will have no reason to repeat last year’s complaints.

Only five of the players who started in Andorra are in tonight’s starting XI. Three – Peter Pekarík, Martin Škrtel and Filip Lukšík – are defenders. Kornel Saláta, replacing Ján Ďurica, completes the back four. Hearts goalkeeper Marián Kello, in for Ján Mucha, will be behind them. Marek Hamšík, who might be thankful he can still walk, let alone play football, after Saturday’s shocking tackle on him, keeps his place in midfield. He will be joined by Marek Čech and Kamil Kopúnek. Erik Jendrišek (the final survivor from Saturday’s line-up), Filip Hološko and Juraj Piroška will form a front three.

Weiss is promising an attacking 4-3-3 formation and wants the players to ‘perform for the fans’. That sounds good in theory but perhaps we shouldn’t raise our expectations too high. With Weiss Junior and Stoch not playing, the side might lack a little pace and trickery. Allowances should also be made for certain players’ unfamiliarity with each other ; the attacking trio, for example, looks distinctly experimental. But this is what friendlies are for. Personally, I am looking forward to seeing Slovakia try out new players and new ideas against good quality opposition (apologies, by the way, to Denmark for largely ignoring them in this piece) in front of what should be a decent attendance. It will also be interesting to see how Trnava takes to the national team and vice versa but that is an issue best left for another article….

James Baxter

One response so far




One Response to “Slovakia v Denmark: Preview”

  1.   Kirstenon 29 Mar 2011 at 4:56 pm

    Did I miss something about Stoch? As far as I could tell, he didn’t get hurt, although he did look like he wanted to kill someone when he came off. It’s not like Fenerbahce desperately need a healthy Stoch, so why’s he not playing?

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