Archive for June, 2011

Jun 30 2011

Slovan Bratislava – Could This be the Season?

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To follow James’ excellent article on pre-season preparations at Zilina, I’ve responded with a write-up on the situation at Slovan Bratislava 2 weeks ahead of the new season.

The announcement this morning of a major new sponsorship deal with Slovakia’s biggest betting company was followed by headlines quoting Ivan Kmotrik’s intentions to build a new stadium for Slovan on the site of Tehelne Pole.

This obviously comes as welcome news to the fans of the club desperate for Champions League qualification, but [judging by comments drifting off-topic at the bottom of this article] is apparently less than pleasing to fans of other clubs in Slovakia.

Readers are invited to divert to the Slavic Football Union website and are welcome to leave their comments at the end of my article.

Cheers, Britski Belasi!

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Jun 26 2011

Pre-season at MŠK Žilina

Published by under Domestic

I’ve written before that I would rather like to see Slovakia adopt a spring-autumn calendar so that competitive football can be played on long, sunny June evenings. It’s not going to happen, though, I accept that, so I have to content myself with friendlies instead. I’m not complaining here. The season starts in mid-July so clubs are intensifying their preparations  now, meaning that you can see some reasonably interesting fixtures. MŠK Žilina have played four home games over the past week, starting with two in one day last Saturday (against Liptovský Mikuláš at the Závodie training-ground and Petržalka at Štadión pod Dubňom), continuing against Lučenec on Wednesday and concluding with Cracovia earlier today (25th June).

The Mikulaš game, the only one I didn’t see, resulted in a 4-2 win. Eight players had 90 minutes of action in that one so weren’t available for the later game. Žilina started purposefully against Petržalka but the visitors, once they’d absorbed the early pressure, began to look increasingly comfortable and the final score of 0-0 was as inevitable as it was familiar. I’d like to comment on Petržalka players who caught the eye but no programmes were issued for the game and the scoreboard, while it did list the teams, kept flashing on and off in a profoundly annoying manner. Therefore, I can only offer the fairly useless observation that numbers 7 and 14, both fair-haired guys who operated in midfield, looked very decent.

The Lučenec game saw Žilina field two complete teams. The one sent out for the first-half played a 4-2-3-1 formation, dominated possession and territory but posed a genuine threat only intermittently. The second-half XI played 4-4-2 and the four goals they scored in twelve minutes (including a hat-trick for Ivan Lietava) brought the old saying about London buses to mind. Lučenec had looked solid in the first 45 minutes with what I suspect was basically their first-choice team but their own substitutions seemed to disorientate them and one or two of the players brought on looked out of their depth. Lietava toyed with the defenders and Babatounde Bello was way too good for his midfield opponents. 4-0 was the final score.

These games, basically run-outs against lower-division opposition, were played in front of healthy-sized, good-natured crowds who had been let in free of charge and whose laid-back demeanour brought to mind cricket audiences. The visit of Polish Ekstraklasa side Cracovia, by contrast, meant higher-quality opposition and a little more intensity in the stands. 1 Euro was charged for admission and a section of the South Stand was opened for the 50 or so visiting fans. The Žilina fan-club made its first appearance of pre-season too so we had something resembling an atmosphere, though still a fairly easy-going one. It was almost as if, just as the players needed to build up their match fitness and try out various moves and tactics, the fans needed to find their voices again and rehearse their chants ahead of the season proper.

On the pitch, my impression was very much that Cracovia would be serious title-contenders if they played in the Corgoň Liga. They were strong in defence, mostly restricting Žilina to long-range efforts, and had some quick, technical attacking players. Perhaps the best of these on the day was the intriguingly-named Rok Straus, who lined up on the left side of midfield. But Žilina too know how to defend and, with Ľubomir Guldan outstanding in the middle of the back four, rarely looked like conceding themselves. Another 0-0 then. I do hope this isn’t a sign of things to come in the real season but, having never fully trusted the results of friendly games, I’m optimistic that it’s not.

Žilina’s three new signings have all featured. Miroslav Barčík, returning to the club he served  between 1996 and his departure in 2006, has been deployed just behind the striker when the team have used the 4-2-3-1 shape. He is still a highly skillful player, whose creativity will be important. Viktor Pečovský, signed from Banská Bystrica on Thursday, played the full 90 minutes against Cracovia in a deeper-lying midfield position. He’s a neat, unfussy player who passes the ball simply and accurately. The fact that Slovan Bratislava also tried to buy him, even offering him a more lucrative contract than Žilina did, is evidence enough that he’s a signing to be delighted about. But pick of the new players so far is yet another midfielder, ex- Dubnica man Peter Šulek, who caught the eye when scoring the winner for the relegated club against Žilina in May. Typically for someone coming from Dubnica, he has excellent technique and awareness and is also fast and strong, especially when chasing back defensively.

There are also one or two players in on trial, including tall Czech striker David Střihravka. He looks decent enough, though I’m not convinced another six-foot forward is needed given that Žilina seem to be attempting to play more of a passing game and already have Lietava and Momodou Ceesay in the ranks anyway. That said, keeping all the midfielders in the squad happy is going to be a big challenge for Pavel Hapal.

There have been other interesting developments at Žilina recently. Most notable of all is the abolition of the reserve team, which competed in the II Liga (third tier) and the subsequent completion of a merger with local village club Kotrčina Lučka. The side formed out of this will now compete in the fourth tier under a name which will defy all attempts to chant it – Žilina B Kotrčina Lučka. There is investment in this venture from the Lučka side, which will allow MŠK owner Jozef Antošík to reduce his own financial commitments. There are all sorts of questions surrounding the merger, of course, the most obvious being how content players not selected for the first team will be to play in what is largely an amateur league. In answer to that, Žilina say they want to send more such players out on loan to Corgoň Liga and I Liga clubs. Fans are sceptical about this explanation and, more importantly, about how keen Antošík is to continue as the club’s majority shareholder but these are probably issues for another day and another article.

Žilina now face three friendlies on neutral territory against Hungarian, Czech and Polish sides. I won’t be attending any of those so next up for me is a date at Pasienky on July 11 to see how Slovan manage the first step to Champions League qualification.

James Baxter

 

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Jun 23 2011

12 Years on: A Tribute to Peter Dubovsky

Published by under Domestic,Guest

Absolutely delighted to welcome Ralph Davies back to the site with a very fitting tribute to one of Slovakia’s greatest ever footballers, Peter Dubovsky, on the 12th anniversary of his tragic death:

The first and the only time I saw Peter Dubovsky play was 8th September 1993 in Cardiff. He was part of a talented Czech and Slovak team that were challenging for a place at USA 94 . In the 67th minute, Czech giant Tomas Skuhravy won a free kick (Eric Young never touched him) about 40yards from Neville Southall’s goal. At that moment in the game,  I remember turning to my friend and saying there was no way the RCS could score from there, firstly we had Big Nev in goals and secondly it really was „miles out“.  Up stepped the RCS number 10 and smacked it straight into the top corner. It was  a stunning free kick and I am sure if it had been scored by a bigger nation, we would still be seeing it on our tv screens now.

Peter Dubovsky was quite simply an outstanding footballer and tragically taken from us on June 23rd 2000. The Slovak forward, who had been climbing with his brother, died when he jumped from a 10 metre high waterfall while holidaying in Ko Samui, Thailand. He hit his head on the rocks below and died almost immediately, he was 28yrs old.

12 years on and he is still fondly remembered as the greatest of all Slovak footballers by fans and his fellow professionals. Peter broke onto the Czechoslovak scene as a 17yr old striker at Slovan Bratislava and two years later was a full international making his debut after the world cup in 1990. At 20 he won the Czechoslovak golden boot having scored 27 goals in one season (this included a scoring streak of 18 goals in just 14 games), a quite incredible amount in a league not known for high-scoring games. The following season he „only“ managed 24 goals including Slovan’s only goal in a UEFA cup game against world giants, Real Madrid. Scouts flocked to Tehelne Pole and Slovan were to receive two serious offers from two of the big players in European football, Ajax Amsterdam and Real Madrid. When Peter Dubovsky turned down Ajax in favour of Spain, they signed up a young Jari Litmanen, that says everything about his talent.

Dubovsky in action for Oviedo in 1999

In his first season at the Bernebau,  „Dubak“ played 25 games scoring 1 goal , but  a year later and following the emergence of Raul Gonzales found himself out of the first team picture and on his way out of Madrid. In his final season he managed just 6 games scoring 1 goal. However, he stayed in Spain and spent  5 years at Real Oviedo , while continuing to  regularly turn out for his beloved Slovakia, managed by former Celtic and Aston Villa manager Dr Josef Venglos.

I found an article where Venglos compared the loss of Dubovsky to when Manchester United lost Duncan Edwards when he said „ The fans and the players loved this man like Man Utd fans loved Duncan Edwards.He will be remembered as a legend of Slovakian sport. It is so sad that he was never able to fulfil his potential.“ Like many Slovaks he was deeply affected by his  death.

Lubos Moravcik , a close friend and Slovak teammate tells a story of  the RCS playing an inform Romanian team in Kosice. The Romanians had arrived in Slovakia expecting to win and with the scores level at 2-2 and the RCS down to ten men, Dubovsky scored a hat-trick which Moravcik described as „the best hat-trick I ever saw“ and that Dubovsky had made Hagi and co look ordinary.

The legend lives on in Slovakia with an award for the the best Slovak u21 player, bearing the name of Peter Dubovsky. It was created in the search for players who have the same qualities and  the current stars of Slovak football, Hamsik, Weiss and Stoch have all won the trophy.

Even now, his boyhood team Slovan Bratislava hang a flag with his picture at home and away matches.

Dubovsky Flag next to ours at Senica away

The  greatest shame is the game lost a player perhaps approaching the peak of career and a footballer that was not only the best  ever Slovak footballer, but one of the best Europe has ever produced.

The final word goes to Josef Venglos  who summed Peter Dubovsky up perfectly when he said „ Peter Dubovksy was a Slovak, who played like a Brazilian“.

Follow Ralph on Twitter as he follows the ups and downs of Czech & Slovak football

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Jun 20 2011

Disappointing draws for Slovak sides

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Well, what an anticlimax that was:

ŠK Slovan Bratislava (SVK) v FC Tobol Kostanay (KAZ)

was pretty much the worst draw we could have hoped for in terms of travel potential.  Kostanay is in the North of Kazakshtan, 8,574 km from Bratislava by road, or 2 flight connections away.  I was seriously intending to travel to the away leg of Slovan’s Champions League 2nd qualifying round tie, but had been quoted several times over the last week or so as saying “anywhere but Kazakhstan”.  Don’t get me wrong, I know it must be a lovely and fascinating country to visit but it will be very hard for Slovan’s fans to justify an outlay as big as this and the time, effort and hassle of getting there.  I will be very interested to see what the club propose as travel options for the fans, maybe there will be seats available on the official charter flight for anyone wishing to travel, but I really struggle to see any other possible way of making the trip.  Slovan fans generally do road or rail trips.  They go en masse to places like Amsterdam, Mostar or Belgrade.  They generally don’t do intercontinental flights to somewhere which is up there with your Novosibirsks in terms of travel and neither should they be expected to in all honesty.  The cost of a trip to Kazakhstan from Bratislava will probably be in the region of 3 or 4 times your average Slovak monthly salary.

Stadium in Kostanay which holds 8,050 people.

I suppose to be at least slightly pragmatic about the situation, at this stage of the Champions League one should either hope for a plum tie with easy travel scope for the fans or a tie against a team you really should be able to beat convincingly.  Obviously I know nothing about FC Tobol [their fans are more than welcome to comment on this article] and I shouldn’t patronise them by talking about something I don’t know, but surely Slovan will be the favourites here.  One tweet came in this afternoon:

“if it’s any consolation tobol have had a terrible season, they look like a flash in the pan side, ala b’burn in 94/95″ thanks to @MWroundtheworld for that.  Maybe we could have an explanation of how a team who are in the Champions League had a terrible season – they are Champions I guess, or is Kazakhstan on a different schedule to the main European leagues?

A quick check of Wikipedia tells us that Tobol have hosted Austria Wien [1-0], Galatasaray [1-1] and Zrinjski Mostar [1-2] in recent seasons.  Judging by those results, I suppose it will be your typical “not an easy place to get a result” although Slovan dispatched Mostar in the previous season’s Champions League.  What will obviously be essential will be to take maximum benefit from home advantage in the first leg, and try to open up an unassailable lead to take away the week after.  Sandwiched inbetween matches against AS Trencin and FK Senica in the league, this task must not be underestimated by Slovan otherwise they run the risk of losing ground in the Corgon Liga and an early exit from Europe.  Not what we want.

Now to the other Slovak sides who were in today’s Europa League draws:

FC Spartak Trnava (SVK) v FK Zeta (MNE)  – EL 1st qualifying round

Trnava, a side with decent European pedigree over the years, may be reasonably happy with this.  Zeta played Rangers in the 07/08 Champions League qualifying, but apart from that have only played 3 other European ties, most recently losing to Interblock Ljulbljana and FC Dacia Chişinău of Moldova.  Trnava to Golubovci where Zeta play is roughly 1,000 km so this could be road-trip territory for Trnava’s fans, if they decide to follow their team this season.  I would expect Trnava to qualify here, and see them progress to the 2nd round where they would face KF Tirana of Albania in a largely identical trip to the Zeta one.  Western Europe will have to wait a little while longer for the visit of Trnava’s notorious supporters.

After hosting Sparta Prague, Chelsea, Marseille and Spartak Moscow last season, a slightly different opponent can be expected by Žilina this time around:

KR Reykjavík (ISL)/ÍF Fuglafjørdur (FRO) v MŠK Žilina (SVK) – Europa League 2nd qualifying round

Either Iceland or the Faroe Islands for Žilina then.  Will the fans travel there?  A few might, as they did to Malta last season, but this must also be considered a slight anticlimax for the team who made last season’s Champions League group stage.  I would think Žilina will be concentrating on getting a good start in the league and negotiating this tie with the least of hassle.  Once again, obviously I know very little about their opponents but would think Žilina would consider themselves favourites.

So to sum up, a real mixed bag of ties for the Slovak teams this time around.  Slightly disappointing for the fans, but that won’t matter if all 3 clubs progress.  FK Senica enter the Europa League in the 3rd qualifying round and must be quite glad to avoid the hassle [and cost] of one of these obscure away ties.

Britski Belasi follows the fortunes of Slovak football, domestically and internationally.  My own preferences lie with Slovan Bratislava, and regular contributor James Baxter is an MSK Zilina fan.  We would be absolutely delighted to hear from fans of any of the above mentioned clubs.  Please don’t hesitate to drop us a comment below on how your team sees the draw, and how you fancy your chances against the Slovak sides!

Thanks, Dan Richardson

 

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Jun 12 2011

Corgoň Liga going Retro

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The Corgoň Liga made good viewing for those with nostalgic tendencies this spring as several Slovak players who seemed to have left domestic football behind returned to their roots. It’s a trend that looks set to gather pace this autumn, judging by both speculation and transfers already completed.

I guess we have to start with Filip Šebo, whose wonderful run of goalscoring form for Slovan Bratislava following his transfer from Valenciennes last September not only contributed hugely to his side’s title success but also recalled his equally brilliant performances for Artmedia Bratislava in 2004/2005. I still wonder if Šebo has the necessary quality to ‘make it’ in a better league or score goals for his country against the likes of Ireland or Russia but there’s no doubt for me (even as a decided non-Slovan fan) that his return to Slovakia has been good for the domestic game.

Šebo’s feats easily overshadowed the homecoming of a striker who, unlike the Slovan man, actually figured in last summer’s World Cup ; Martin Jakubko, of Banská Bystrica. Jakubko scored 25 goals in 58 games for Bystrica between 2004 and 2006, when he secured a move to the now defunct Saturn Moscow Oblast in Russia. He later moved to FK Chimki and then to FK Moscow before a second spell with Saturn and, finally, six months with Dinamo Moscow where he only rarely played. Bystrica resigned him last winter but, despite scoring three times for them in 2011, he has struggled with a knee injury. Jakubko has interesting things to say about the Corgoň Liga as a whole, claiming that, in terms of both infrastructure and on-field quality, it has made practically no progress over the last five years. Given his own international pedigree, not to mention height, physique and finishing ability, he ought to stand out next season if he can get himself fully fit.

Žilina’s Zdeno Štrba is another returnee whose spring didn’t go as he or his club would have hoped. I would actually divide it into three quite distinct stages. The first is the opening three games, where Štrba occupied his old holding midfield position and was arguably guilty of slowing some of Žilina’s moves down ; domestically, they had got used to playing at a relatively high tempo. He then moved to centre-back and gave some defensive masterclasses as the side kept five clean sheets and briefly looked as though they might yet have a chance of maintaining their championship push. Then, ahead of a crucial home match with Senica, Štrba injured his back and was ruled out for the rest of the season. Žilina, partly as a consequence I would suggest, lost to Stanislav Griga’s side and continued to fall away badly as the season drew to its end. His recovery is essential if a serious challenge for next season’s title is to come from the men in yellow and green.

It would be interesting to know how closely the players returning to the Corgoň Liga this summer have been following the fortunes of Šebo, Jakubko and Štrba. Whatever the answer, Miroslav Karhan’s move back to Trnava after twelve years away is difficult to better as Slovak football’s most intriguing summer signing. With his 103 international caps and vast club experience, which takes in Spanish, Turkish and (most of all) German football, you would expect Karhan’s arrival to help raise standards at Trnava. Like Jakubko, though, he will have to get used to playing regularly again, having been completely out of the first team picture for the last six months or so at FSV Mainz. For the time being, his superbly taken goal and assured all-round performance for Slovakia against Andorra serve as a reminder of what a fine player Karhan continues to be.

Back at Žilina, meanwhile, we await the arrival of another face from the past. Miroslav Barčík made 279 appearances for the club between 1996 and 2006, before spells with Trnava and Polonia Bytom. I have to admit to mixed memories of him. On one hand, he was a genuine entertainer, with some wonderful skills and, on occasions, a penchant for crowd-pleasing tricks, such as ball-juggles or exaggerated back-heels. Once, as Žilina were playing out time in a comfortable home win, he stood on the ball and did a military-style salute. But he also tended to overdo things, often passing up the chance of a quick, effective pass in favour of dwelling on the ball. I recall him giving a fine performance in a losing cause for Trnava in the 2008 Slovak Cup Final (won by Artmedia) and rather hope that, as a senior member of next season’s Žilina squad, his game will show sense and maturity as well as tricks and flicks.

The transfers of Karhan and Barčík are definite but let’s also allow ourselves a little speculation. Balázs Borbély, former captain of Artmedia Bratislava and arguably (the competition is stiff) their best performer in the 2005 Champions League campaign, will be training with Slovan Bratislava’s first team from Monday, presumably in the hope of catching the eye of coach Karel Jarolím. He has already trained with Slovan’s B team, following two major operations, the second, in November last year, performed by a surgeon who once treated David Beckham. Borbély played only once for his most recent employers, AEL Limassol of Cyprus, in 2010/2011 and in fact his whole career since leaving Artmedia has been somewhat blighted by injury. If Slovan do sign him, and he can get back to something like his 2005 form, he will be an excellent addition to what is already a very strong midfield.

Of course, we should be realistic and understand that these players have returned (or thought about returning) to Slovak football because they are nearing the end of their careers and want to bow out on home soil, or because they haven’t quite made the grade elsewhere. We also understand that, as Jakubko says, Slovak football is not in a great state, on or off the pitch. There is not much that players can do by themselves about issues such as infrastructure and sponsorship but they can help provide a product worth marketing. As supporters, we hope that those mentioned here, all proven performers with vast experience behind them, will contribute to a raising of the level of the game played in this country.

James Baxter

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Jun 06 2011

Slovakia 1-0 Andorra

Published by under International

I didn’t manage to get this blog piece written yesterday, partly due to the fact I was travelling to escape the heat of Bratislava, but also because I was less than anxious to sit down and write about another largely abject National team performance.

The weather in Bratislava on Saturday had been 30+C all day, but it became increasingly obvious throughout the day that by evening this match-being played at the 80% roofless Pasienky-would be hit by thunderstorms.  It was just a question of how wet were going to get in the stands, and how much this might affect the play on the pitch.

Once again, Weiss surprised us all with the following selection:

Slovakia Selection

Seemingly maximising attacking potential from the start, this 4-3-3 looking line-up included in-form Filip Sebo, alongside Filip Holosko and Robert Vittek upfront.  A midfield trio of Hamsik, Kucka and Jez looks, on paper at least, balanced, strong and varied.  Along with wing-backs willing to get forward at any opportunity, you couldn’t ask for more in terms of intent from Weiss.  You even have a play-maker, Miroslav Karhan, playing in defence, as correctly predicted by James Baxter.  Surprise omissions on the night were Erik Jendrisek & Erik Čikoš but all things considered, I was fairly confident that this team could deliver the 3 points and 3 goals which Weiss had been calling for pre-match.

The ground was no fuller than for a big Slovan league game, with the attendance swelled significantly by the ‘Slovenski Representantit Detom’ behind the far goal.  In a move presumably organised by the SFZ, some several hundred school-kids were in nice and early in their white-blue-red co-ordinated t-shirts.  It’s great to see children being encouraged to attend the match, but we should remember that this will have significantly added to the attendance, which at 4,200 for a competitive match in the capital is dire.  ”The weather conditions played a big role” they might say, true, but providing a stadium with decent vantage points, some level of comfort and a roof might also play a big role.  Ho-hum.

Colour Co-ordinated Kids

Slovakia attacked the far-goal and once again, I think I will leave most of the tactical analysis of this match to readers who may have been watching at home and be better placed to offer constructive comments than myself.  As usual at Pasienky, I could blame the vantage point or the 10 minutes spent trying to get a beer, but honestly I can’t think of much to say about the first half.  Maybe I should start paying for the better seats, but at €15 or €25 -by local standards- this is quite an outlay.

The Slovakia formation seemed disjointed at times, hard to fathom whether Holosko and Vittek were actually playing up front, or hanging back / drifting wide.  Most of the attacking intent seemed to come through Marek Cech down the wing and it was hard to see exactly where Hamsik fitted into things.

Sebo did look sharp up front, he made plenty of runs and was always causing headaches for the defenders but the lack of coherency between him, his fellow attackers and the midfielders meant that any chances were created more by luck than anything else.  Andorra were exactly what we expected them to be, defensive, solid, hard to break-down but offering nothing up front.   A goal-less first half surely meant for some changes and stern words from Weiss at half time.  Unfortunately, as I was looking forward to seeing him play, Juraj Kucka was also larely anonymous and his disappointing performance was ended after 46 minutes with another more attack-minded player, Stanislav Sestak coming on.  Hamsik stayed on, of course.

As the second half started the pressure built, on both teams, it seemed.  Slovakia were effectively camped in the Andorra half and passed the ball around neatly, but there was just no cutting edge from open play and even Sebo stopped running after a while.  Statistics of 72% possession to the home team and just 1 shot from Andorra [I think that went out for a throw-in] tell the story, but as does the final score-line of 1-0.  Hamsik had been taking the corners from right in front of us in the 2nd half and what a disaster that was.  Every corner the same, limply arriving somewhere on the corner of the 6 yard box, far too low for a header.  How easy to defend, but finally after 63 minutes, the break through came, again from a Hamsik corner delivered to the same area, this time Vittek got there soon enough to impede the defender and the ball came out invitingly for Miroslav Karhan to volley emphatically into the top corner.  Unstoppable, excellent finish from Karhan and it was pleasing to see the joy on his, and Sebo’s faces while celebrating.  Pity I can’t say the same for Hamsik, who barely broke stride from his follow-through from the corner to pat his team mates on the head as they happened to be celebrating there anyway.

We can tell you exactly where this will end up

In spite of the break-through Andorra remained steadfast in defence and Slovakia even struggled to create many more chances.  The introduction of Slovan captain Igor Zofcak on 74 minutes was pleasing for the local fans, but this was perhaps a little late for Zofcak to affect any kind of influence on the match.  Still it is a pity that the only goal in a match like this came from a 34-year old veteran of over 100 National team caps.  Equally disappointing is that although it was a great goal, it resulted from a set-play, exactly the same way the only goal was scored in the away fixture.  Please, don’t credit Hamsik with the assist on this one.

Just a couple of further remarks on individual performances; Robert Jez was clearly the best player on show, the way he holds his head up with the ball at his feet and distributes so accurately and naturally shows he clearly has a big future with the National team.  He is one of the few players who seems to stick to his pre-determined role rather than wandering off with other ideas.  The fact both he and Kucka started in a match where Slovakia were clear favourites should also bode well for when they will need to concentrate more on the defence.  Expect to see much more of Jez and a well deserved man of the match award here tonight.  Secondly, can anyone offer any explanation of why Robert Vittek stayed on for 90 minutes?

Jaz waits for his interview in the Pasienky TV Studio

Anyway, I look forward to some comments on the individual and tactical issues above, perhaps from my side I better finish with a few words about Pasienky as a venue for International football.  I must admit, over this season I have come to accept, if not particulaly like the ground as a venue for Slovan’s domestic games.  This is absolutely not the case for the National team.  There is no atmosphere whatsoever, as mentioned before, terrible vantage points, and swathes of empty seats.  The players are miles away and on a night like tonight, you risk getting wet, very wet.  A few groups of individuals start-up songs of “We Want a goal”  / “We want a stadium” / or the ice-hockey anthem of “Slovensko, Slovensko ayoayo ayo Slovensko”, but that is it, no co-ordinated support, no atmosphere, nothing.  Slovakia should be ashamed of playing competitive matches in a stadium like this.  This is the only area where I can sympathise with the players when they under-perform as they clearly did, once again tonight.  Miroslav Stoch has already made his feelings known about playing matches here and I’m sure he’s not the only one.  Comparison with the Ireland game ongoing at the brand new stadium in Skopje, Macedonia is huge.

Dark clouds gather over Pasienky & the Slovak Football Team

On a positive note, 3 points is 3 points and we’re still there level with Ireland and Russia at the top of group B.  However this was supposed to be a night where Slovakia reinstated themselves as serious challengers while Ireland and/or Russia dropped points in trickier ties.  In fact the opposite happened and it will take a very, very different performance from Slovakia on September 6th in Dublin to have any chance in staying in this qualifying race.

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