Slovakia Soccer Team
They’re regularly described as a ‘surprise package’ in the qualifying rounds, but maybe it’s time for the rest of the world to catch up. No team that’s regularly in FIFA’s top 20 should be considered dark horses, and there’s certainly no mystery about Slovakia’s growing success. With a composed passing game, plenty of individual talent and a strong team ethic, it’s the kind of dedicated soccer culture that inspires a loyal following. Criticised in the past for a lack of firepower up front, there’s ample evidence that the “Falcons” are rediscovering their sharp eye for goal. Find out for yourself with Slovakia Tickets here on StubHub!
Slovakia – soccer and national culture
After the ‘velvet divorce’ from the Czech Republic, Slovakia's soccer fans could have been forgiven for feeling in the shadow of their neighbors to the west. A golden team with the eye-catching talents of Pavel Nedved, Karel Poborsky, Patrik Berger and Vladimir Smicer came close to a shock win in Euro 1996, and seemed the true successors to Panenka and the great Czechoslovakia sides of the past. Slovakia, however, have since come roaring back – climbing the FIFA rankings with the help of equally talented (and Western-bound) stars like Marek Hamsic and Robert Vittek, as well as the captaincy of tough-tackling defender Martin Skrtel.
Today’s Slovak players can look back to the likes of legendary striker Adolf Scherer, whose quarter-final winner against Hungary and two goals against Yugoslavia took Czechoslovakia to a World Cup Final. Slovak soccer history effectively restarted in the 1990s, but it’s already had its great moments, with qualification for the World Cup in South Africa and Euro 2016 convincing commentators at home and abroad that the team had ‘arrived’. The ‘Repre', as they're known, had found a way to win at tournament level.
Attacking midfielder Robert Mak is one of many in the ‘Repre’ who chose their opening Euro 2016 match as one of their “great memories”. Their much-fancied Russian opponents fell apart in less than 10 first-half minutes: Vladimir Weiss ran onto a long ball over the top, easily turned inside two defenders, and steered his finish beyond the diving Akinfeev. So far so good… but Hamsik’s goal, cracked in off the post from a short corner, would go down as one of the strikes of the tournament.
However, the team’s crowning moment remains their win against Italy in the group stages of World Cup 2010. Two goals from Vittek had stunned the world champions, and even when the fightback came, in a dramatic last 10 minutes, Kamil Kopunek had the composure to score a winning goal and write himself into Slovakia’s sporting history.