Jun 06 2011

Slovakia 1-0 Andorra

Published by at 12:43 pm under International and tagged: , ,

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.

9 responses so far




9 Responses to “Slovakia 1-0 Andorra”

  1.   James Baxteron 06 Jun 2011 at 2:19 pm

    Excellent write-up Dan, I was really looking forward to this – far more than to the game itself – and (again unlike the game) it was well worth the anticipation.

    About the stadium, I do agree. They’ve made a terrible mistake in falling out with Antosik and Zilina. Three Slovakia matches have been played at pod Dubnom since it was rebuilt, brilliant atmosphere at all three, two full houses and no more than 1,000 empty seats for the Norway match. It should be Slovakia’s No.1 ground for now, ie while we wait for a national stadium. That’s not bias, nothing against Bratislava or its people (not even Pasienky itself) nor Trnava, just proven reality.
    For a start, and as you say, how can you justify, in this day and age, 80% of a crowd out in the open and miles from the pitch? It would be an OK ground to watch cricket on a sunny day with a beer and your feet up but it’s not a football venue.

    I also agree about the game. First half, it looked like 4-2-3-1, Hamsik wide right, Holosko on the left, Vittek behind Sebo. Hamsik did nothing on the right, came inside to no effect, then went and cluttered up the left, where Holosko and Cech had actually done quite well. In the second-half, with Hamsik ‘officially’ in the middle, it was Jez taking all the responsibility and doing all the creative work. Incredibly, Weiss had a go at Sebo, Vittek, Holosko and Sestak (excellent, I thought) for missing chances and Jez for getting booked yet exonerated Hamsik from criticism. Could this be why there’ve been problems in the camp before, I wonder? Sorry, but Hamsik seems like teflon-man to me. His performances in the last year have ranged from anonymous to totally anonymous to totally and utterly anonymous yet still he seems immune from any criticism, even from having to take responsibility for lack of performance.

    Karhan’s goal was a great strike, excellent technique. With his distribution work from the back as well, he can join Cech, Jez and Sestak as the players to come out with credit. Sebo’s finishing was hopeless and shows why he’s never quite ‘made it’ yet outside Slovakia but at least, with his movement and refusal to give up on a cause, he keeps getting the chances.

    Was it the right team, I wonder? Hubocan (as a left-footer) and Hamsik weren’t an effective combination down the right ; surely, if width is key to getting the better of Andorra, as we were told it was, your wide players should be comfortable playing in those areas, as Sestak showed when he came on. Holosko was better on the other side but I’m not sure what Jendrisek has done wrong. All suggests to me that the coach, as well as a lot of players, shouldn’t be too proud of himself just at the moment.

    Weiss says they now have to go back to being modest, back to the attitude that qualification is an achievement of a sort you have to fight and fight for. Fair enough, as long as that includes everybody, including, and perhaps especially, Mr Hamsik.

    Still nothing lost, pity Ireland and Russia didn’t mess up but there’s all still to play for, with three months till the next game. Just think about bringing the home games back to Zilina. Please.

  2.   James baxteron 07 Jun 2011 at 11:58 am

    No’one wants to defend Pasienky or Hamsik then? Shame as I was up for one last big debate of the season….

  3.   britskibelasion 07 Jun 2011 at 4:54 pm

    Seems like that debate took place on The Daily!

    Not sure where Kirsten has gone, seems to be out of comms in deepest Italy somewhere. If she missed Hamsik’s performance, probably for the better!

    And have a feeling that Vlado VVeiss on The Daily was a certain Old Badger …

  4.   katon 07 Jun 2011 at 10:53 pm

    old management of football federation put on paper unfavorable contract, they rent pasienky stadium for few years and federation have to pay it (it does not depend if national team play there or not)

  5.   A Certain Old Badgeron 07 Jun 2011 at 11:18 pm

    Not me m8, I never say rude things about national heroes. What’s that you say? Hamsik played like a bag of shite again, I guess you dont have to try too hard when youre in the shop window when youre already going to a huge club for a massive amount, any day soon know…

  6.   A Certain Old Badgeron 07 Jun 2011 at 11:18 pm

    …god damn typos.

  7.   decon 09 Jun 2011 at 12:19 am

    Great report, and quite accurate! Not a good match for the neutrals. I love going to athletics stadia… but not to watch football!

    Will the real Slovakia show up in Dublin? I expect a much stronger showing than was witnessed in Pasienky. Ireland on a high now after 4 wins on the bounce (including Italy “away”) with no goals conceded. Three teams going for one, possibly two places… ‘all to play for’ as the cliche goes.

  8.   britskibelasion 10 Jun 2011 at 6:49 pm

    Just seen the SFZ holding a ballot on Facebook about where people want the Armenia game to be held.

    Zilina is currently winning ahead of Bratislava and Trnava is last. A few votes for ‘other towns’ too!

  9.   James Baxteron 10 Jun 2011 at 10:20 pm

    Perhaps I should join Facebook and cast a vote for Zilina then. Weiss is up for Zilina himself, it seems.

    Talking of Zilina, they’re going worryingly retro. After Strba and Lietava, they’ve now resigned Miroslav Barcik from Polonia Bytom – he originally left 5 years ago. Used to flatter to deceive and has probably lost his pace now as well. And speculation is that Za and Slovan are to fight over the signing of Pecovsky from Bystrica. He’s one I’d love to see join.

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