After qualifying for their first European Championships in 2016, Slovakia made it two on the bounce by booking a spot at Euro 2020.
Stefan Tarkovic’s side have been drawn in Group E for this summer’s tournament alongside Spain, Poland and Sweden. It’s by no means an easy group, but Slovakia will know they are in with a solid chance of squeezing through to the knockout stages.
Let’s take a look at what you can expect from Slovakia at Euro 2020.
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Getting to this point was a bit of a marathon for Slovakia, who failed to qualify through the traditional groups but were given the chance to battle in a playoff thanks to their performance in the 2018/19 Nations League.
Slovakia won just four of their eight group games, besting both Hungary and Azerbaijan twice, which saw them finish just one point short of the qualification spots held by Wales and Croatia. The play-offs came calling.
The semi-finals brought a meeting with the Republic of Ireland, and Slovakia managed to withstand a barrage of attacks and snatch a spot in the final on penalties.
The final hurdle came in the form of Northern Ireland, who took their game to extra-time as well but were powerless to prevent Slovakia from grabbing a 2-1 victory to book their place at Euro 2020.
Tarkovic only took control of the team in October, so we haven’t seen too much of his side just yet, you only need to look at the squad list to see that Slovakia’s strengths lie in their defence.
A little further forward in midfield, you’ll find the most expensive Slovakian ever, Stanislav Lobotka, whose work as an anchor man gives Slovakia a seriously impressive spine around which to build.
Their defence might be solid, but at the other end of the pitch, Slovakia leave a lot to be desired.
21-year-old Feyenoord forward Robert Bozenik usually leads the line. He netted just once in 15 Eredivisie appearances this season, but he’s still the biggest goal threat in a striker group which also features Jablonec’s Ivan Schranz and Omonia Nicosia’s Michal Duris. With all due respect, that won’t inspire fear in many defenders this summer.
Koln’s Ondrej Duda and Goteborg’s Marek Hamsik are asked to do a whole lot in their roles as the 10, but there’s only so much they can do.
For many fans, this will be the first time seeing Hamsik in action since he left Napoli in early 2019. He’s still only 33 years old, so a bit of that midfield magic is still there and ready to come out this summer.
Midfield is easily the most intriguing area for Slovakia. On top of Hamsik, there’s 18-year-old Tomas Suslov, who comes into the tournament on the back of an impressive season with Dutch side Groningnen, and keep an eye out for Gladbach’s Laszlo Benes as well.
Even if those midfielders come in clutch, Slovakia won’t get anywhere this summer without an enormous performance from Serie A champion Skriniar.
Tarkovic took full advantage of the expanded squad rules this summer by naming a full 26-man roster in early June.
Goalkeepers: Martin Dubravka (Newcastle), Marek Rodak (Fulham), Dusan Kuciak (Lechia Gdansk)
Defenders: Peter Pekarik (Hertha Berlin), Lubomir Satka (Lech Poznan), Denis Vavro (Huesca), Milan Skriniar (Inter), Tomas Hubocan (Omonia), David Hancko (Sparta Prague), Martin Valjent (Mallorca), Martin Koscelnik (Slovan Liberec)
Midfielders: Patrik Hrosovsky (Genk), Stanislav Lobotka (Napoli), Juraj Kucka (Parma), Marek Hamsik (Goteborg), Ondrej Duda (FC Koln), Tomas Suslov (Groningen), Lukas Haraslin (Sassuolo), Robert Mak (Ferencvaros), Vladimir Weiss (Slovan Bratislava) Jan Gregus (Minnesota Utd), Lazslo Benes (Gladbach), Jakub Hromada (Slavia Prague)
Forwards: Robert Bozenik (Feyenoord), Ivan Stranz (Jablonec), Michal Duris (Omonia)
Slovakia won’t be expecting much this summer, and that’s probably right of them.
They’ll spend the group stage battling it out with Sweden and Poland for that second qualification spot behind Spain, and while it’s unlikely that they’ll make the cut, it’s definitely possible. Slovakia are ranked 36th in FIFA’s world rankings, with Sweden 18th and Poland in 21st. There’s a difference in quality, but it’s not huge.
The Sokoli might be aiming to sneak a spot in the knockout stages by finishing as one of the highest-ranked third-placed teams, but even that might be a bit of a stretch.