After reaching the last 16 at the European Championship five years ago, Slovakia's hopes for success at this year's tournament will be pinned on the same player as last time. (More Football News)
Group And Chances
Slovakia will take on Poland on June 14, while taking on Sweden on June 18. Slovakia’s last match is against Spain on June 23.
With Spain and Sweden likely to be 1-2 from the group, Slovaika are the weakest team in the group and can hope to surprise Poland. If they finish third then they face winners of Group B.
Who To Watch
Five different coaches have been in charge and a handful of regulars have retired since Euro 2016, but captain Marek Hamsik remains the team’s figurehead.
Now without the likes of Martin Skrtel, Stanislav Sestak, Adam Nemec and Jan Durica, Milan Skriniar leads the defense while the team relies on Hamsik’s creativity and vision for its attacking game.
No one has played more games (126) or scored more goals (26) for Slovakia than Hamsik, who made his international debut in 2007.
The big question for Slovakia coach Stefan Tarkovic, however, is whether Hamsik can still produce on the biggest stages.
The attacking midfielder, who turns 34 in July, disappeared from the spotlight after ending his 11-year stint at Napoli in early 2019 to join Chinese club Dalian.
Travel issues amid the coronavirus pandemic and his aim to get playing time ahead of Euro 2020 prompted him to return to European soccer this year.
He joined IFK Gothenburg in March on a half-year contract. Gothenburg hoped Hamsik would bring the club closer to its first domestic title since 2007, but a calf injury forced him to sit out the start of the Swedish league season in April.
Slovakia will face Poland and Sweden in St Petersburg and Spain in Sevilla in Group E.
Euro 2020 marks Slovakia’s third appearance at a major tournament since becoming an independent country in 1993. It advanced from its group on both previous occasions, and Hamsik was an essential part of the team’s success each time.
At the 2010 World Cup, Hamsik and forward Robert Vittek helped Slovakia to a crucial 3-2 win over Italy, which sent the defending champions home after the group phase. Slovakia ended up losing to eventual finalist Netherlands in the last 16.
At Euro 2016, Slovakia upset Russia 2-1, with Hamsik scoring the second goal, before holding England to a 0-0 draw. Slovakia advanced as one of the best third-place teams but lost to Germany in the first knockout round.
Slovakia has been struggling since. The team failed to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, finished last in its Nations League group last year, and only made it to Euro 2020 by beating Ireland on penalties and Northern Ireland in extra time in the qualifying playoffs.
Without Hamsik, Slovakia got off to a poor start in its 2022 World Cup qualifying campaign in March when it failed to beat Cyprus and Malta. The team recovered a bit with a 2-1 win over Russia.
In search for more consistency at the European Championship, Tarkovic, who was an assistant to Jan Kozak at Euro 2016 and replaced Pavel Hapal in October, will turn to Hamsik — again. (With inputs from AP)
Goalkeepers: Martin Dubravka, Marek Rodak, Dusan Kuciak
Defenders: Peter Pekarik, Lubomir Satka, Denis Vavro, Milan Skriniar, Tomas Hubocan, Jakub Holubek
Midfielders: Marek Hamsik, Stanislav Lobotka, Patrik Hrosovsky, Juraj Kucka, Ondrej Duda, Robert Mak, Vladimir Weiss, Laszlo Benes, Lukas Haraslin, Tomas Suslov, Matus Bero, Erik Jirka
Forwards: Michal Duris, Robert Bozenik, David Strelec