Jan 31 2012


Published by at 8:18 am under International and tagged: ,

Vladimír Weiss’s three-and-a-half year spell as coach of the Slovakia national team ended ‘by mutual consent’ on Monday. Weiss and Ján Kovačík, the president of Slovenský futbalový zvaz, agreed that, upon termination of his contract, Weiss would receive just over 100,000 Euros, the equivalent of three months salary.

Praise for Weiss’s achievements and a sense of disappointment, even dismay, at his departure, figure prominently in the initial reactions to the news from players, fellow coaches and other football people. The evident tensions between Weiss and the association are also mentioned by some and indeed it’s not difficult to imagine that Kovačík and the coach will feel relief that they will no longer have to work closely together.

But it’s those achievements that need highlighting first. Let it never be doubted that Weiss worked wonders with Slovakia. In the months preceding his appointment, the team lost 5-2 at home to Wales and 2-1 at home to Iceland. If you’d said after witnessing these performances that two years down the line they would be knocking the holders out of the World Cup, you would have been fast-tracked to an institution. But the impossible happened. In qualification for South Africa, Poland were beaten by two late goals after leading for most of the game, the ‘Czech syndrome’ was overcome with a classy performance (and another late goal) in Prague and Northern Ireland, usually hard to beat on their home ground, were easily swatted aside in Belfast. Weiss’s team were often dismissed as limited, but they were also organised and disciplined, and they never gave up. They did turn in an inept performance at home to Slovenia in the penultimate qualifier – losing 2-0 – but made amends three days later by ploughing through the snow in Chorzow to complete a double over the Poles and secure that coveted finals place.

The Italy result itself feels now like one we should perhaps have seen coming, but it was unbelievable at the time. It followed poor performances and results against New Zealand (1-1) and Paraguay (0-2), games where Weiss got things like team selection and substitutions uncharacteristically wrong. But the introduction of Juraj Kucka and inspired performances from Marek Hamšík and Róbert Vittek, combined with generous helpings of good fortune, earned a joyous victory in what was arguably the tournament’s finest game.

Weiss will be long be associated with the Italy game alone but his entire World Cup achievement is important when we discuss his legacy because qualification, and doing more than just turning up for the finals, are the standards by which his successors will now be judged. Weiss has shown that, just because it is a small, little-known country, competing properly on the football field should not be regarded as beyond Slovakia. Whoever follows him will not have recourse to the familiar excuses.

Of course, it is those same achievements and standards which mean that Weiss’s failures, specifically the recent failure to qualify for Euro 2012, have also been judged harshly and why some will say it is right that he is going. On the grounds that ‘you’re only as good as your last result’, that is fair enough. But I suspect that, were it not for certain other factors, Weiss might have been offered the opportunity to put those failures right.

The first is the quality of football. Slovakia were sometimes dull and pedestrian on the way to the World Cup but they could also be entertaining at times. Some of their performances over the last two years, by contrast, have verged on the unwatchable. Seven goals in ten competitive games, two of which were against Andorra, and the inability to create one clear chance at home to Russia – a contest they needed to win – bear adequate testimony to this. There is a sense that, the worse results have got, the further Weiss has retreated into negativity.

Then there are the constant rumours of favouritism and internal conflict. Last year, Weiss himself confirmed that some players in the squad were jealous of Marek Hamšík. What he refused to acknowledge was that, unlike many of his team-mates, the captain appeared to be above criticism, despite some anonymous performances in his country’s colours, and that thus there might be grounds for resentment. Ján Ďurica, whose place in central-defence has seemed unaffected by several elementary mistakes, is also thought to be a Weiss favourite. Meanwhile, Stanislav Šesták, scorer of six goals in World Cup qualifying has been frozen out of a team that can’t find the net without him. Perhaps even worse, Weiss has been casually dismissive of the international claims of Plzeň pair Marián Čisovský and Marek Bakoš, even though they’ve enjoyed Champions League football this season.

There is also the possibility of conflict of interest. Six months ago, Weiss took on the coach’s job at Slovan Bratislava, a club likely to be supplying players to the national squad. This raised the danger of him putting players he knew at club level in the team, even if they weren’t necessarily better than other candidates. Alternatively, he might have been tempted to ‘rest’ Slovan players in, say, an international friendly which preceded a big club game. That’s before we consider the sheer workload involved in coaching at club and international level.

Finally, we come back to a point mentioned earlier, that of tense relations. Slovakia is both a notoriously fractious society and one which relies largely on personal relationships. Weiss has rarely made a secret of his frustrations with the SFZ. For its part, the association tolerated him while he was winning but were clearly not sorry to see his tenure end once he started losing. In that respect, what’s most surprising about his departure is that it didn’t happen earlier.

Discussion will turn to potential successors soon, with Plzeň coach Pavel Vrba, Senica’s Stanislav Griga and the currently out of work Jozef Chovanec among the early favourites. For now, I will say just one thing with certainty ; if whoever takes the job matches Weiss’s 2008-2010 efforts, they’ll be doing very well indeed.

James Baxter




16 responses so far


  1.   Kirstenon 31 Jan 2012 at 10:03 am

    Because my interest in football really just started growing three years ago, Weiss Snr is all I’ve ever known as the coach of Slovakia. But I still agree with what’s been said here — the football may have been boring at times, particularly recently, but whoever is appointed next will still have a lot to live up to. I only hope he has the guts to shake things up a bit, both in tactics and in the use of different players.

  2.   Fat Eckon 31 Jan 2012 at 1:18 pm

    I remember the Italy game like it was yesterday. It certainly was the most dramatic game of the World Cup, James – even better than Ghana-Uruguay for me – and Weiss clearly had the makings of a succesful EURO 2012 qualifying campaign before things went off the rails. As someone who has watched the second-oldest football nation on the planet qualify for bugger-all in 18 years, I hope Slovakia don’t rue the day they let relations with Weiss deteriorate. Scotland have made it to ten finals tournaments and have never once qualified for the second round – Slovakia should bare in mind just how great a feat they worked under Vlad in the summer of 2010.

    Observed from the outside, managing Slovan AND the national team is an incredible arrangement. As you say, James, the critics would be queuing up to jump on this potential conflict of interest, irrespective of the truth in it, the moment anything went wrong for EITHER side. When I see, for example, Sir Alex Ferguson constantly bemoaning the selection of Man U players by the football association which runs the league he continually wins, the situation with Weiss managing the biggest club in the country as well as the national team was bound to become fractious. Even in a more comparable nation, like mine, Walter Smith had to resign as Scotland manager in order to return to managing Rangers, the slovan of Scotland.

    So what Vlad Snr was pulling off was brilliant even just in terms of workload and enduring the atmosphere of potential suspicion from so many commentators. Furthermore, to go from independence to qualifying for the knock-out stage of the World Cup Finals – via elminating the holders! – in the space of 17 years is BOUND to encompass violent peaking and troughing. What happened in South Africa itself and the qualifyers which preceeded it, was breathtaking – the EURO 2012 campaign was used to draw that breath back into the collective Slovak lungs. It was a massive gulp. Just like France, at a higher level, were nearly-men for most of the 20th Century then suddenly they’ve won a World Cup and the European Chapionships in the space of 2 years: They were awful at the 2002 World Cup, as they regained their breath and digested the massive improvement they made – becoming a bona fide superpower is a lot to take in. By the time 2006 came round they were in the final without anyone really noticing, including the French themselves.

    The 2010 win over Italy can, if you like, counterbalance results like the home humping by Armenia while Slovakia finds its level as a very, very young international entity (Wales have given Scotland a 4- and 3-goal doing in the 21st century – at least Slovakia have the fairly-recent memory of thumping Wales in Cardiff to ameliorate that particular pain). Weiss has given Slovakia at least the potential to be a difficult, dangerous prospect for any opponent: He deseved at least one more qualifying campaign to lift the consistency up to another level, at a time when Slovakia needs stabilisation – at a time when it’s still getting a sense of itself on the modern international football stage.

    I think the Slovak FA have made a mistake here. They should have bust a gut to keep him. I doubt there’s anyone else around who has the combination of inside knowledge and informed world view- as well as the inate patriotism AND downright affordability of Weiss. If he had to leave one job then I’m afraid Slovan should have been the ones to suffer but – of course – administrators the world over never take the most altruistic course: I mean that would result in the greatest number of fans being happy and we just couldn’t have that when a man in a suit has a chip on his shoulder about another man in a suit … or a tracksuit.

    Hope Slovan go from strength to strength as a result of this news. If they take a step up from this season’s Europa League campaign and, say, qualify for UEFA competition past Xmas next season, then Slovakia’s star will still shine brighter on the international stage thanks to Vlad Snr – but even that would leave me with the feeling he could have done so much more for his nation’s football rep if he’d been allowed to concentrate his mercurial ways on the charge for Brazil 2014.

    In the meantime, we’ll just have to hope his son will raise Slovak pride by winning the Pichichi … :-)

  3.   StaryJazvecon 31 Jan 2012 at 1:40 pm

    Profutbal say according to their info. its 99% Vrba replacement. Šport go 35% Vrba, 40% Griga.

    Last i/v I read w/ Kovacik he said that the SFZ already owe Weiss and all the players appearance money for the last 3 matches and barely have enuff to run the SFZ. So where the f*ck are they going to get another 105,000 euro from? Wouldnt think Vrba would be cheap either.

  4.   StaryJazvecon 31 Jan 2012 at 1:44 pm

    Let’s see, they need someone to work for peanuts, there’s a bunch of planet-size egos and prima donnas to knock into shape, I reckon it’ll be Laco Jurkemik.

  5.   StaryJazvecon 31 Jan 2012 at 2:13 pm

    Agree w/ you Mr. Eck, SVK not qualifying for Euro 2012 is just regression to the mean.

    It was a no-brainer for Laurinec to offer Weiss a megacontract that the SFZ couldnt afford, it was also a no-brainer for Weiss to think taking the Slovan job while national coach was workable.

    On the plus side, I doubt Guede wouldve got another cap under Weiss and we’ll mebbe get to see if this boy Bakoš has got the right stuff.

  6.   George Mon 31 Jan 2012 at 2:25 pm

    As with the Golden period of Slovak Ice Hockey, the Bronze age of the Slovak football team, has now come to an screaming end .

    Unless they can find a few talent youngsters, willing to work hard at their game, rather than live off their stupid haircuts, sup drugs etc on there 5 grand a week from some Turkish or Ruskie looser`s …then 3rd rate is where this team is dropping and back to join the likes of the Latvians , the T^stans`s, the Northern Irish and the Scots ..!

  7.   Jameson 31 Jan 2012 at 3:31 pm

    Vrba’s said to be Kovacik’s favourite. His Plzen efforts, which almost exactly mirror Weiss’s 2005 with Petrzalka, certainly make him tempting. And his Zilina 2006/2007 team played the best football I think we’ll ever see in the Corgon Liga.

    SJ, I read that Kovacik interview too. Only lower-paid staff being paid at all as I recall. Obviously though, relations with Weiss had got so bad that keeping him had become a non-option for them. Thus they were keen to make an agreement with him as sacking him wd have been even more expensive.

    The conflict of interest thing was a problem waiting to happen, though I’d say his treatment of his Slovan players over the last 6 months had been very fair. My only quibble would be that Sebo should have been on against Russia while it was still 0-0, not in the 85th min at 0-1. You needed to win, FFS.

    But all that and the SFZ aside (the clowns), I still agree with Alex that Weiss should have stayed. He knew what it took to get the team to qualify for sth and do itself credit, more than you can say for every man jack of his predecessors. We won’t know whether he’d have got to Brazil but he deserved the chance to learn from the last year or so and give it a shot.

  8.   britskibelasion 31 Jan 2012 at 7:21 pm

    Firstly, James; thanks for a great article. Definitely one of the finest out there in any language on the end of the Weiss era. Personally, without going too deep, and from a selfish Slovan-inclinded point of view, I am glad the Weiss–National Team saga is now over. I do feel that it will take something special from any of the Weiss successors to repeat the feat of South Africa 2010. Balancing the international ‘superstars’ of the Slovak squad with up-and-coming players from the domestic league must be one of the most challenging jobs out there in international football, and while we’re all disappointed with the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign, the World Cup certainly gave a lot to remember.

    Then there’s George. The noise. He who persistently takes us to task over our content, spelling and grammar, yet continues to comment on every single article. Just reading his latest offering sums him up completely. George M, having sucked up to James just to get at me produces an almost ineligible comment containing, by my count no less than 5 grammatical mistakes and no absolutely no meaningful content. Great stuff.

  9.   George Mon 31 Jan 2012 at 9:19 pm

    Sadly your own comment `sums` you up as well . As for getting at you ??? You invite all comments, but go all girly and sensitive , when some do not say nice things about your articles, but when others are praised for their works you get jealous.

    For the record, I do deliberately make speling and grammer , or if you prefer spelling & grammar errors, a real eature of my post . It gets so many morons to read/re-read what I said, rather than skip over the content, as I would suggest most readers do your own feeble words. It makes the Geeks and pinheads feel nice and smug, that they found some mistake and really get off on pointing them out ….I am to please .

    You may also well feel, that I include absolutely no meaningful, useful, content …..I could however, not possibly comment .

  10.   George Mon 31 Jan 2012 at 9:31 pm

    BTW..I`ll move this to here , just incase I was accused of being off topic // …Dan check the grammar & spelling , add to my school report eh ?

    I propose as an outsider, Jan Slota as the new SFA Team Manager .

    Because ….. He is likely to be unemployed real soon, does not need paying and never earns any money from any job he is employed …but seems to have a lot of friends and family that loan him Bentley`s, planes and huge Villa. He is Nationalistic , wears the flag on his sleeves, hates all opposition, even a bib v skins game would be considered a war game to him …Has some great defensive idea`s, like using tanks, he is totally paranoid of the media and will be at home with all the, skin heads, tattoo`d morons and other drunk supporters .

    A real peoples choice, as would be even be demanding a public holiday, for every glorious team defeat !

  11.   britskibelasion 31 Jan 2012 at 10:17 pm

    Others have given up on you George, but can you just explain how this:

    “For the record, I do deliberately make speling and grammer , or if you prefer spelling & grammar errors, a real eature of my post”

    corresponds to this:

    “Perhaps if and when you learn how to spell and put down a joined up sentence , we might just share the joke F.E …?

    Translation please….anyone ?”

    or this:

    “Thank god he will go and have it printed by professional Fax- Copy, as I am not sure he can spell that many joined up words all alone and without the help of spellcheck?”

    You think I am jealous when others are praised for their writing? Er .. how do you figure that? I am delighted to be able to post an article such as the above on this site. I am becoming increasingly p*ssed off that it has to be polluted by the self-indulgent dross you produce.

    Comment (even yours) is free, the site remains open for it, and will continue to do so.

  12.   George Mon 31 Jan 2012 at 10:39 pm

    I believe those comments , where replies and questions to other posters …so why are you butting in at all old son?

    The problem is Dan, you launch into a huge sensitive rant of self abuse and then go back and censor yourself , by selectively deleting your own very abusive re-poste posts? I guess this bit of your own creative writing is all OK and would not be considered as being a `polluted by the self-indulgent dross you personally produce?`

    Most odd ….rather double standards, no ?

    If you don`t like what I say, just ignore me ….In fact, I thought that is what we agreed > James is a warm cuddly etc ….etc you are a cretin .

  13.   Jameson 01 Feb 2012 at 8:21 am

    ‘Personally, without going too deep, and from a selfish Slovan-inclinded point of view, I am glad the Weiss–National Team saga is now over.’

    From a non-Slovan supporting point of view, it’s reason to be worried! I reckon Weiss will do well at Slovan now he’s able to concentrate fully on them and has more of his own players in and some he didn’t like much out.

    His bad spell with them came at a ridiculous time, around the time of Slovakia’s games with Ireland/Armenia and the start of the EL. Since October, with less international stuff to worry about, his record has been very good.

    Sport now saying “It’s Vrba!” He’ll see out his Plzen contract and sign on the dotted line with SFZ in summer, apparently.

  14.   George Mon 01 Feb 2012 at 10:00 am

    James , if we can get back to football , rather than hear about Dan`s monthly cycle ..I am not sure why such a young guy would want to take over as Slovak Team manger at this time of his career. The pay is crap and there are no up sides in this job …The team is sliding back to an all time low, the current team is still full of old hacks and war horses, young players are not coming through and `Oh yes, I managed the Slovak national team`, hardly adds to his current CV, which includes, as your rightly point out a classy league winning Zilina and an up and coming Plizen who did well in Euro football .

    Until some players start to appear, and Slovakia start to perform again as they did a few years ago, then this is only a part-time job and/or for someone ( cheap ! ) we have not yet thought .

  15.   Jameson 01 Feb 2012 at 1:03 pm

    George, ‘classy Zilina’ is a bit of a stretch for you. Was there sth in that morning coffee??? Agree about Plzen, though they might struggle to keep that team together, just as Weiss’s Artmedia did after 2005/2006.

    But if you’re anywhere near right about Slovakia’s current potential and if what we hear about the state of the SFZ finances has any truth in it, there’s no way Vrba will take the job. And I’m not saying he should be jumping at the chance, only that Sport are naming him as nailed on to take it (and they get some things right). He would be reuniting with one or two who played for that Zilina team, like Pekarik and Sestak, he could bring his Plzen lads in, surely Kucka and Stoch are good players etc. It could be a tempting prospect.

    If he refuses, I’d say it would be more to do with money. We’ll see…

  16.   George Mon 01 Feb 2012 at 4:59 pm

    I consider it a fair comment James, given Zilina did make the group stages of the Chumps league, with sod all money …. although then of course, the wheel badly fell off ? Did they even get a point?

    Also , and at least, Zilina have a team still in existence …where now Artmedia are playing on some sad, borrowed ground, with a team of misfits and hopeful kids . Sadly, I pass that old empty stadium, ie. that unused ground in Pzelk`near Novy Most, every other day. Still looks quite good, as they are cutting the grass from the Spring to Autumn ..Although someone has stolen the green & white plastic seating . Still it looks better than the former National Stadium, where Dan loves to be photographed along with all the other Plants and Flora ! …One day, when I win the lotto etc ……

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