Slovak soccer team at World Cup 2010 - Peter Levársky

Peter, the Slovakia soccer team will compete among the 32 best teams at the World Cup 2010 in South Africa. How do you see this unusual achievement?

Slovakia is the team who surprised many. Only independent since it split with Czech Republic in 1993 in the “Velvet Divorce,” this is its first major tournament in its present form. There is always first time for everything it’s usually very special. This World Cup appearance is no different.

Many people ask me why separation? My usual answer is: Slovaks wanted to be independent , more visible and recognized and simply wanted to manage things on their own. “Where there is a will there is a way.” Czech’s and Slovaks showed the world with open mind, good will, and diplomacy, positive results and outcomes are still possible and at the present form both countries are enjoying best relationships than ever before (Culture, Sports, Religion, Business etc.) Slovakia is now economically strong enough to adopt the euro and avoid many of the financial problems in the current economical crisis.

Placed in qualifying group with Poland, Slovenia, Northern Ireland, and “big brother” the Czech Republic, Slovakia was given a very slim chance to qualify. But this team won its group and put the nation 5.4 million on the map, as the World Cup often does. Posted 7-2-1 record in the qualifying round and produced 22 goals in qualification. Team specially looked good on the road both defeating the neighbouring Czechs and Poles and clinched valuable win on hot turf in Northern Ireland. How well they will play farther away from home is an open question.

As part of Czechoslovakia, the Slovaks got to the world cup finals twice only to lose to Italy in 1934 and Brazil in 1962 and losing both after leading. And they won the European championship in 1976 in Beograd (Yugoslavia) defeating Holland in semi-finals and Germany in finals. 8 out of 11 starters in the final game were Slovak origin. Now Slovakia enters international stage, buoyed by headlines at home. The morning after the team qualified, euphoria was emphasized in newspapers saying things such as, “Boys we love you” and “Dream come true.”

Tell us something about the team itself. Who are the offensive players?

This is a young team that got to South Africa because of its offense with the scoring spread all over the squad. Up front Robert Vittek (Lille, France) is the teams all time leading scorer. Another two younger players are from German league: Erik Jendrisek (Kaiserslauten) and Stanislav Sestak (Bochum) the leading scorer in the qualifiers with six goals. Filip Holosko (Beskitas) also supplies an occasional goal up front. In the middle, the always busy 22 year old Marek Hamsik (Napoli, Italy) is the team’s best player. He is the rising star and currently captain for his young age. All attacking play will come through him. He is often joined by Kamil Kopunek (Spartak Trnava, Slovakia) and the emerging Miroslav Stoch property of Chelsea F.C. currently with Twente in Holland, only 20, who can play winger or attacking midfielder. Then there is another attacking midfielder Vladimir Weiss jr. (Manchester City), 20. He shares the same name as the coach because he is his son. In fact he is the third Vladimir Weiss to play for his country. His grandfather did it as well.

Who will play defense an who will guard our goal?

Peter Pekarik (Wolfsburg, Germany) is decent defender. The key man however is undoubtedly Martin Skrtel. Well known to Liverpool fans where he plays. Skrtel has a knack for making impossible last-ditch challenges. These two are often joined by some combination of Jan Durica (Lokomotiv Moscow, Russia), Radoslav Zabavnik (Terek, Russia) or Marek Czech (West Bromwich Albion, England). In qualification the manager has also chosen Martin Petras (Cesena, Italy), defensive midfielders Miroslav Karhan (Mainz,Germany) and Zdeno Strba (Xanthi, Greece)

And our goalkeeper? It is Jan Mucha who just recently signed with Everton, England. He was a key figure in qualification, however World Cup tournament will be a huge step up for him as well.

Who leads the Slovakia national soccer team?

Manager, Vladmir Weiss sr. is a local. At 45, he is young for a national team manager. He is best known for being great motivator, and strategist. Just getting Slovakia to South Africa is a huge accomplishment, especially given that he took over halfway through the qualifying campaign.

Peter, what is your prediction for the World Cup outcome?

Slovakia’s team looks overmatched in South Africa but we would have said something similar looking at the team’s chances of qualifying before those games started.

Every game starts at 0-0 and it is played for 90 minutes. Ball is round and in any given day with right constellation of stars anything could happen. So you just never know.

I am going to make a pilgrimage to South Afrika. I simply don’t want to miss this great opportunity.

I still think soccer is the closest global language and currency. That makes the World Cup unifying force - perhaps after religion the largest unifying force on the planet.