FIFA/Coca-Cola World Ranking: 34
Slovakia is making its first appearance as an independent nation in the World Cup. They previously contributed to eight World Cup appearances as part of Czechoslovakia. Slovakia surprised many folks in qualifying, coming out on top of a group that included Slovenia, Czech Republic, Northern Ireland, Poland and San Marino. They won seven out of ten matches, tying one and losing the other two.
Slovakia were placed into Group F alongside defending champions Italy (ranked 5th), Paraguay (ranked 31st) and New Zealand (ranked 78th). Italy is expected to come out on top of this group with second place most likely being decided on June 20 when Slovakia play Paraguay. Slovakia will most likely need to win that game in order to advance and make their first ever World Cup appearance a huge success.
Slovakia is coached by Vladimir Weiss, who took over the team in 2008 after they failed to qualify for Euro 2008. Weiss is one of the youngest coaches to appear in this World Cup, but he has a lot of experience as a player. Weiss represented Czechoslovakia in 1990 and then went on to play for Slovakia after they gained their independence. Weiss is known for having good rapport with his players and always seems to be enthusiastic and transparent. His demeanor has no doubt helped unite this Slovakian team.
The best player on the Slovakian side is Marek Hamsik. Hamsik is a young and talented attacking midfielder who is a very good finisher and has the speed to cover a lot of ground on the field. Hamsik was a big key to Slovakia qualifying and must continue to be if they are to make it to the second round.
Another key figure in qualifying was forward Stanislav Sestak, who led the team with six goals. He will be looking to repeat that performance in South Africa. Joining him up front is Robert Vittek, who will most likely sport the captain’s armband.
Slovakia’s defense is led by Martin Skrtel. Skrtel is a very strong defender who can out-muscle most forwards, especially in the air. The two-time player of the year in Slovakia will have to be very solid in the backfield for Slovakia to advance.