Today, the Slovak national team enters the calendar year 2023. And right away! Coach Francesco Calzona’s men will face Luxemburg in the opening match of the qualification for Euro 2024 tonight in Trnava. Before the match, we approached three of our former representatives and asked them the same five questions.
Sapara expects a higher victory
1. SLOVAKIA UNDER COACH FRANCESCO CALZON IS STILL WAITING FOR THE FIRST VICTORY. WHAT DO YOU THINK THE TEAM NEEDS TO DO TO FINALLY ACHIEVE IT?
2. IN TODAY’S MATCH WE HAVE TO DO WITHOUT TEAM CAPTAIN MILAN SKRINIAR. HOW BIG OF A COMPLICATION IS THIS AND WHAT COULD THE DEFENSE COMPOSITION LOOK LIKE?
3. WE HAVE A HIGHLY FAVORABLE BALANCE WITH LUXEMBOURG, BUT LAST SEASON OUR OPPONENT WAS ABLE TO DRAW IN TURKEY (3:3) AND EVEN PLACED BETTER THAN US IN THE LEAGUE OF NATIONS. DO YOU EXPECT IT TO BE A HARDER MATCH THAN THE FIGHTS WITH THIS OPPONENT HAVE BEEN IN THE PAST?
4. WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO SEE FROM OUR REPRESENTATION ON THE FIELD, WHAT COACH FRANCESCO CALZONA SHOULD ORDER TO THE TEAM?
5. WHAT RESULT ARE YOU EXPECTING AND WHO COULD GET AHEAD?
1. “I’m not saying that the coach had an easy task, because there was a restructuring of the team, which he worked on for four or five months. He tried different players and I think that this time the public will rightly expect not only results, but also a better performance. One hundred percent we have to improve offensively, we are still struggling there. We lack players with a difference, with penetration, rebounding, or a shot. Our attacking phase needs to improve.”
2. “Every team would miss Skriniar. He is a very high-quality player, which he has proven for a long time. On the other hand, I don’t want to underestimate Luxembourg, because it has improved. I would deal with the absence of our captain on a post-by-post basis. I don’t know how the coach thinks, but Šatka is available, he plays regularly, it’s a shame about Valjent’s injury. It can be solved by assigning Hancko to Šatek, then he would only have to deal with filling the position of left defender.”
3. “I think yes. Considering our team was going through a rebuild when some older players dropped out. In the case of young people, it is possible to notice the fluctuation of the form. The quality of Luxembourg has gone up, it no longer receives high loaders. So, we’re going to have a harder time.”
4. “What the coach should order for the team, I will leave it to him. I would be happy if we flew at the opponent and with an active game we would force them to make mistakes and take the lead as soon as possible.”
5. “I expect victory. We have to win at home against Luxembourg, and it doesn’t matter if it’s 1:0 or by a bigger margin. Who scores a goal will also depend on whether the opponent will defend tooth and nail and it will be necessary to shoot over it, so it can also be a defender. I expect victory and it doesn’t matter what kind.”
1. “Also in this case, the old formula applies, score one more goal than the opponent… Luxembourg is no longer among the football dwarfs, but I think it is a suitable opponent for us to start the qualification with a victory. We have to start offensively and not be afraid to show that we are at home. You have to play aggressively and have a lucky hand when determining the starting line-up.”
2. “Of course, Škriniar’s absence is a significant loss, but at the same time it is an opportunity for other players to show that they belong to the national team. Against Luxembourg, even without Škriniar, we could keep a zero at the back. He played regularly with Šatko, but there are players who have played something. That’s why I wouldn’t experiment, but bet on experience and put together a defense of four Pekarík, Gyömbér, Šatka, Hancko.”
3. “What happened is already history. It is true that Luxembourg football has made progress, but if we want to think about participating in the Euros, we should beat such an opponent at home, regardless of whether they are in form or not. I believe that we will improve the balance of matches with Luxembourg even more.”
4. “The most important thing is the points, but I would also like to see good football played by our national team. However, these attributes go hand in hand because when you perform well, a good result will follow.”
5. “It’s true that at the moment we don’t have a typical scorer like Vittek or Šesták, who could be relied on and scored in every other game. I expect a victory, Róbert Polievka, a newcomer, or Lukáš Haraslín, who is playing in excellent form, can make a mark in terms of shooting.”
1. “It has to start working between the coach and the players, as we know that for four matches the coach tried to instill something in the players, which is not easy. A lot of players were changed in the matches, which has to stabilize and the players have to start doing what the coach asks of them. Otherwise, of course, it cannot work. I firmly believe that the players who are nominated have already understood to a greater extent what the coach requires from them and will transfer it to the field as well.”
2. “That’s a big problem, because Milan is a footballer of European standards, which he constantly proves. However, it is not only about game performance, fights won or quality, but also from an organizational or leadership aspect, because he knows how to direct and conduct the defense. This gives the team peace and security. The coach nominated several players, Hancko plays stopper, De Marco is there. Replacing post for post will not be such a problem, rather it will be from the point of view of replacing the personality of Milan Škriniar.”
3. “It is possible, because Luxembourg has picked up recently, managed to achieve several good results. Despite this, we are the high favorite of the match, which must be clearly confirmed by the results.
4. “For our game to have a face. That is the most important thing. To make it work, to see what the team wants to play, how they want to assert themselves, how they want to play defensively and how dangerous they want to be offensively. If the foundation will work, there are enough quality players in the national team to be able to gain a foothold and play it defensively.”
5. “I expect our victory to be higher, maybe by two or three goals. And I firmly believe that Róbert Polievka could prevail.”