World Ranking: 34
Best World Cup finish: Final (1934, 1962)
Manager: Vladmir Weiss
Probable starting eleven
Goal: Jan Mucha
Backs: Radoslav Zabavnik, Jan Durica, Martin Skrtel, Peter Pekarik
Midfields: Miroslav Stoch, Marek Hamsik, Zdeno Strba, Vladmir Weiss
Strikers: Stanislav Sestak, Robert Vittek
Key Subs: Marek Cech, Juraj Kucka, Filip Holosko
Slovakia has finally broke the barrier and qualified for the World Cup for the first time in country history. Up until the Euro qualifier in 1996, the Slovaks soccer talent was combined with the Czech Republic, despite the two countries separating in 1992.
Since branching off, Slovakia has not had much success at the international level. In the 1998 group qualification for the World Cup, they finished fourth in their six-team group while in 2006; they narrowly missed out after losing to Spain in a qualifying playoff.
Heading into qualification for South Africa, the Slovaks were not among the favourites but they managed to make the tourney with some clutch wins against other qualifiers.
After back-to-back wins against Northern Ireland and Poland, the Slovaks went up against their rival in the Czech Republic and managed a 2-1 win. They followed it up with a loss to Slovenia but a 1-0 win against Poland in October, booked their ticket to the World Cup.
While the Slovaks shocked pundits with qualifying for the World Cup, many consider their Cinderella run to go no further than the group stage. In a group that features defending champions Italy, Paraguay and New Zealand, experts believe they will finish third but acknowledge a second place finish is not out of the question.
To continue to derail the odds, the Slovaks will need their goalkeeper Jan Mucha and outstanding defence to maintain their consistent play. In the ten qualification games, Slovakia surrendered just 10 goals while scoring 22.
On the offensive side of the spectrum, players like Stanislav Sestak and Marek Hamsik will have to be great for the Slovaks to have a chance to compete.
Sestak, who scored six goals in qualifications, believes his team is good enough to make it through the group stage.
“Italy are obviously the big favourites to win the group, but the game against Paraguay will be close and we reckon we can beat New Zealand too,” said Sestak to Bundesliga.de.
The lack of offensive depth could make there task easier said than done. If a player gets injured, Weiss does not have the support off the bench to make the change seamless.
But do not expect Weiss to get judged too harshly by the Slovakian faithful as he is known as an icon of Slovak soccer. The Weiss family have had three members represent their country in soccer and are known as one of the more respected families in Slovakia
The Slovaks will be hard pressed to get past the group stage but if there defence holds up and they can get enough scoring from their forwards, their run may not strike midnight.