Feb 04 2013

Belgium v Slovakia Preview

Published by at 5:27 am under International

Slovakia play their first game of 2013 this Wednesday, taking on highly-rated Belgium in Bruges. The game continues a year-long habit of travelling to play friendlies against some of Europe’s most difficult opposition. Since Vladimír Weiss resigned as coach last January, Slovakia have faced Turkey, Holland, Denmark and the Czech Republic away from home, and Poland in Austria. Not surprisingly, the results have been mixed, but a good performance is required on Wednesday to banish memories of the last outing, a dismal 0-3 surrender in Olomouc against the Czechs.

The Slovak squad has a largely familiar look about it, with three selections standing out. One is the only newcomer, former Slovan Bratislava and Ružomberok midfielder Richard Lásik, who currently plays his club football for Brescia Calcio in Italy’s Serie B. Aged just 20, Lásik is the latest player to make the step up from Slovakia’s rapidly improving Under-21 team. Indeed, joint-coach Michal Hipp says that his nomination was based partly on excellent references from Under-21 chief Ivan Galád.

Then there are two players returning to the ranks after lengthy absences. Dušan Švento last played for Slovakia in the pre-Euro 2012 friendly away to Holland, where, as a few days earlier against Poland, he gave a decent performance on the left side of defence. His return is timely as Michal Breznaník, excellent in the October World Cup qualifiers against Latvia and Greece, is unavailable because of injury. Švento was a wide midfielder earlier in his career and has even been used by his club, Red Bull Salzburg, as a deep-lying playmaker. But Hipp and Stanislav Griga clearly see him primarily as a left-back.

Finally, and hopefully most significant of all, there is the inclusion of Róbert Vittek, an absentee since the Euro 2012 qualifier in Ireland nearly 18 months ago . Vittek is Slovakia’s top scorer of the independent era with 23 goals, and his 79 international appearances make him the country’s second most capped player behind Miroslav Karhan. Since this latest call-up, Vittek has changed clubs, moving from Trabzonspor (for whom he was in a decent spell of goalscoring form) to fellow Turkish outfit Istanbul Büyüksehir Belediyespor. Given the recent trials and tribulations of Slovakia’s strikers, Griga and Hipp will be delighted to have Vittek at their disposal again. Martin Jakubko, who did find the net during substitute appearances in Denmark and at home to Liechtenstein last autumn, will also be welcomed back ; he had to miss the Latvia, Greece and Czech Republic games because of a broken jaw.

The selections of Vittek and Jakubko mean there is no place for Marek Bakoš. He drops to the ‘reserve squad’, where he is joined by certain others who failed to convince against the Czechs, notably Marián Čišovský and Karim Guédé.  But right-back Peter Pekarík, substituted after a ghastly opening 17 minutes in Olomouc, has been ditched altogether. On a happier note, Trenčín defender Boris Godál gets a first call-up to the reserve squad, joining club-mate František Kubík.

If Belgium are as good as everyone seems to think – and there are certainly some well-known names in their ranks – Wednesday will be a difficult evening for Slovakia. But they seem to perform better when they know they’re likely to be up against it. There is general agreement that one reason they started so badly in Olomouc was because they’d allowed themselves to believe they were the favourites, and that the hosts were the side with all the problems. The memory of going 2-0 down inside six minutes should see them come out in a more determined frame of mind this time round.  And once Wednesday’s over, we can start thinking about another game where Slovakia will be favourites, and a more important game at that – the next World Cup qualifier, at home to Lithuania on March 22nd.

 James Baxter

Slovak Squad

Dušan Kuciak (Legia Varšava)
Dušan Perniš (Pogoň Štetín)
Matúš Putnocký (ŠK Slovan Bratislava)

Martin Škrtel (FC Liverpool)
Tomáš Hubočan (Zenit Petrohrad)
Kornel Saláta (FK Rostov)
Radoslav Zabavník (1. FSV Mainz 05)
Lukáš Pauschek (ŠK Slovan Bratislava)
Ján Ďurica (Lokomotiv Moskva)
Dušan Švento (Red Bull Salzburg)

Vladimír Weiss (Delfino Pescara)
Juraj Kucka (FC Janov)
Viktor Pečovský (MŠK Žilina)
Miroslav Stoch (Fenerbahce Istanbul)
Marek Hamšík (SSC Neapol)
Marek Sapara (Trabzonspor AS)
Richard Lásik (Brescia Calcio)

Martin Jakubko (FC Amkar Perm)
Michal Ďuriš (FC Viktoria Plzeň)
Róbert Vittek  (Istanbul Büyüksehir Belediyespor)


One response so far

One Response to “Belgium v Slovakia Preview”

  1.   Fat Eckon 05 Feb 2013 at 10:53 am

    Good luck to the Slovak boys in Bruges – they should have no problems adapting to their more constructive mindset as Belgium are indeed one seriously good team these days. Best they’ve been since the eighties.

    Of course, I’m saying this as a bitter Scotland fan but – in fairness – we did really well to only lose 2-0 in Brussels in October’s World Cup qualifiers.

    Also hope Ivan Galád begisn promoting a few more of his best players, before their 22nd birthday, seeing as how Slovakia have Scotland on the next U-21 comp.

    Glad to see Vittek back – hope he adds to his tally.

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