How much do you know about Slovakia? Find out
You may know your Owens from your Heskeys ok, but how much do you know about Slovakia?
Well, there's a big game on tonight and you need to get your information pretty quickly. That's why we've recruited an insider to give us the low-down on the Slovaks ahead of the crucial Euro Qualifier in Middlesbrough this evening.
Name: Tomas Cho
Position: Sports Editor of Slovakia News Agency, SITA
TheFA.com: Ok Tomas, tell us what you know.....What was the reaction in Slovakia to the draw in general and to playing England in particular?
In general, this draw is very attractive but tough as well. As you may know, Slovakia has never qualified for a final tournament for either the Euro Champs or the World Cup. Slovakia faces Turkey and Macedonia again (as we did in the previous World Cup qualification), Sweden being replaced by England this time around.
Turkey and England are clear group favourites. Our group is probably the only one with two quarter-finalists from Japan and Korea. The reactions to facing England were quite contradictory.
It is one of the strongest European teams and beating them sounds almost like a dream. On the other hand, every player desires to play against them.
After the draw, our coach Ladislav Jurkemik said: "Our group looks very tough. England is the "top" favourite but even they cannot consider themselves winners until the final whistle has blown."
Frantisek Laurinec (Slovak FA president) said: "It is a very attractive group. Playing against England is not only an honour but an extra motivation for every player and fan as well."
TheFA.com: Interesting....Is English football popular in Slovakia?
Definitely. Many people supported England during the WC 2002. England was probably the most popular team in Slovakia. Top English clubs like Man U, Arsenal and Liverpool have a lot of fans here. The Slovak TV broadcasts a programme called "Euroleagues" showing the best moments from Premiership games so we keep up to date.
TheFA.com: Which are the English players that are most respected/feared?
It is the same as anywhere in the world. "Beckham-mania" has obsessed Slovak fans as well. Liverpool star-duo Owen, Heskey are highly respected as well and Rio Ferdinand and Sol Campbell became very popular after the World Cup.
TheFA.com: Which are the strongest Slovakian players?
Vladimir Janocko (25-years old) - Austria Vienna playmaker, flying really high at the moment. Loved by Austria fans and described as a half of the team by Austrian press. Technically brilliant, can create chances and score goals himself. On the other hand, has problems with fitness and stamina. Struggles to show his full potential in the national team.
Miroslav Karhan (26) - VfL Wolfsburg skipper. Began his career as a right-back. Has played for Betis, Sevilla, Fenerbahce Istanbul and Wolfsburg. An experienced defensive midfielder who can be used in different positions.
Robert Vittek (20) - The greatest talent of Slovak football. Slovan Bratislava striker. Very fast natural marksman but lacks experience.
Szilard Nemeth (25) - Similar type as Vittek. Seems to have had a very good season with Boro. Troubled by many injuries during his career.
TheFA.com: Thanks Tomas, we'll make a note of those names! Can you tell us about your coach, his background and the tactics he likes.
Our coach is Ladislav Jurkemik. He is 49 and was born in the small village of Jacovce (the same birthplace as Slovakia´s 2002 ice-hockey World Champion's team captain, Miroslav Satan).
He won 57 caps with the Czechoslovak national team, and was part of the European champion winning team in 1976. He also played in the team which came third in the Euro Champs of 1980 in Italy, during which he scored a legendary goal past Dino Zoff.
He was an exceptional defender who spent most of his career with Inter Bratislava, before later moving to Switzerland. He started his coaching career in the early 90s. He went through several clubs in Switzerland, Slovakia and Austria before, in September 2000 he took over a coaching position at MSK Zilina where his team finished fifth and, in the following season, surprisingly grabbed the top spot.
Jurkemik was named Slovak coach in December 2001. He is well-known for his strictness - he only calls up players who appear regularly in their club´s line-ups.
Formation-wise, he likes the 4-4-2 line up... like Sven Goran Eriksson!
TheFA.com: How big is this game going to be in Slovakia for the football fans and the country as a whole?
The England game is very important for the Slovak side after losing to Turkey. If we lost again our chances to qualify for the Euro Champs would be over.
TheFA.com: Ok, prediction time then...what's the score going to be?
Well... Slovakia needs a win and cannot afford a loss. We´ll see how much a full -house inspires the players. We hope to score at least one goal but we also know that England are strong in attack too. Let´s say 1:1.
TheFA.com would like to thank Tomas for his insight and information.
England v Slovakia: Match Centre