Slovakia Profile

Major Honours 1976 European Champions (as Czechoslovakia)
Year Founded 1994

Slovakia had their greatest success when the country was united with the Czech Republic, with Czechoslovakia winning the 1976 European Championships, but they are now starting to become a force again.

The Czech Republic initially fared far better than Slovakia, their neighbours, after both countries had established independent soccer teams. However, in 2010, Slovakia reached the round of 16 at the FIFA World Cup in South Africa - an achievement which showed how far the team had come.

Marek Hamsik is the most recognisable star in the Slovakian national team's history and they have also been represented by another iconic player in Martin Skrtel.

The early years

Slovakia played as the Slovak Republic from 1939 to 1945 and had their first official match against Germany in 1939, beating them 2-0 in Bratislava.

They subsequently played alongside Czech players when the two countries were Czechoslovakia, contributing significantly to a team that was quite successful at major tournaments.

Period as Czechoslovakia

Czechoslovakia did not feature in qualification for the 1950 World Cup and were subsequently knocked out of the group stages in the 1954 and 1958 tournaments.

A third-place finish at the 1960 European Championships in France, the first edition of the tournament, showed what they were capable of.

Czechoslovakia secured qualification for the 1962 World Cup in Chile with a 4-2 extra-time play-off win over Scotland in Brussels, Belgium. The two sides had previously finished level in their qualification group.

Jozef Stibranyi's match-winning goal saw Czechoslovakia clinch a 1-0 victory over Spain in their first match of the group stages of the World Cup finals. They subsequently secured a 0-0 draw with Brazil, who had won the previous World Cup by beating hosts Sweden 5-2 in the final. Even though they lost 3-1 to Mexico in their last group stage match, they progressed to the subsequent round of the tournament.

Czechoslovakia secured a quarter-final triumph over Hungary as a result of Adolf Scherer's goal. He once again starred in a semi-final triumph against Yugoslavia as his brace booked a place in the final, allowing Czechoslovakia to square up to the mighty Brazil at the Estadio Nacional de Chile in Santiago.

Josef Masopust scored the first goal of the game for Czechoslovakia, but Brazil refused to throw in the towel and ultimately walked away with a 3-2 victory.

Czechoslovakia captain Ladislav Novak hoists the teams second place trophy they won from coming runners up at the 1962 World Cup

Czechoslovakia struggled to keep up their impressive form from the 1962 World Cup and fell into a slump for the next 14 years. Then, at UEFA Euro 1976, they won with a largely Slovak team. They beat West Germany on penalties in the shootout after a 2-2 draw after extra time. Eight of Czechoslovakia's starting 11 on the day were Slovak players.

Czechoslovakia followed this up by finishing in third place at the European Championships of 1980, but they never reached such dizzy heights again.

Slovakia then split from the Czech Republic and played their first unofficial international on October 14, 1992 - a 1-0 win over Lithuania. Their first official fixture also resulted in a victory as they saw off the United Arab Emirates 1-0 in Dubai on February 2, 1994.

Modern history

The Czech Republic were losing finalists at Euro '96, but Slovakia struggled to establish a competitive national team to mirror this.

Slovakia did not qualify for the European Championships of 1996, 2000, 2004, 2008 or 2012. Meanwhile, they also failed to make the FIFA World Cup tournaments of 1998, 2002 and 2006.

However, Slovakia managed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa by finishing top of their qualification group ahead of Slovenia, Czech Republic, Northern Ireland and Poland.

At the tournament, Slovakia were drawn into a group which featured Paraguay, New Zealand and reigning world champions Italy.

Slovakia's first group stage match was a 1-1 draw with New Zealand as Robert Vittek's 50th minute opener was cancelled out by a stoppage time equaliser from Winston Reid.

Slovakia then suffered a 2-0 defeat to Paraguay in their second Group F fixture, but they bounced back with a stunning 3-2 victory over Italy. Vittek scored twice and Kamil Kopunek once as goals from Antonio Di Natale and Fabio Quagliarella were not enough to prevent the defending world champions from being sent packing from South Africa.

Paraguay finished top of Group F with Slovakia advancing to the round of 16 in second place. There, they came up against the Netherlands and lost 2-1 despite Vittek's penalty.

Slovakia's next major tournament was Euro 2016 in France, where they reached the round of 16.

Through the playoffs, Slovakia have managed to qualify for the delayed Euro 2020 tournament.

Slovakia team celebrates after scoring against Scotland in a UEFA Nations League match in 2020

Slovakia's legends

Marek Hamsik is the most recognisable face from the Slovakian national team, having starred for Napoli from 2007 to 2019.

He starred in a Napoli attack which also featured Ezequiel Lavezzi and Edinson Cavani and has 26 goals in 126 appearances for Slovakia.

After he signed for IFK Goteborg in Sweden following a stint in China with Dalian Professional, Hamsik was hailed as an incredible signing by a Swedish journalist.

"It's totally surreal," Anton Zetterman from FotbollDirekt told Goal.

"When it comes to foreign players in Allsvenskan, he is the biggest thing ever. In modern times I can only think of Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who played eight games for Malmo before leaving for Ajax in 2001.

"There is no one above him when it comes to class and quality."

Marek Hamsik while on international duty with Slovakia

Martin Skrtel, who is most famous for his time as a rugged centre-back for Liverpool, is another Slovakian soccer icon.

Following the end of his time at Liverpool, Skrtel went on to star for Fenerbahce, Atalanta and Istanbul Basaksehir. Currently, he is a free agent.

Robert Vittek is also fondly remembered for his immense contribution at the 2010 World Cup. He led the race for the Golden Boot for a while, competing in the early stages of the tournament primarily with David Villa for a prize which was eventually won by Thomas Muller.

Biggest rivalries

Slovakia have a rivalry with the Czech Republic with the match-up between the two known as the "Federal Derby". The Czech Republic have generally had the better of this rivalry despite Slovakia's significant contribution to Czechoslovakia's 1976 European Championship triumph.

The two sides met in qualifying for the 1998 World Cup, with Slovakia winning 2-1 in Bratislava before losing 3-0 in Prague. Neither side qualified for the tournament.

The teams next met competitively in qualifying for Euro 2008, with the Czech Republic winning both encounters. Ahead of the 2010 World Cup, Slovakia got their revenge, drawing 2-2 in Bratislava after beating the Czechs 2-1 in Prague.

The two sides have also met four times in the Nations League recently, with the Slovaks losing every encounter.

The fanbase

Soccer, ice hockey and tennis are the most watched sports in Slovakia, but the nation is more successful internationally at ice hockey than soccer. Their fans have rarely had the opportunity to enjoy seeing their side at an international soccer tournament though, so anticipation across the country is high.

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