Report: Slovakia’s struggle with Luxembourg

This week the guys at BritskiBelasi welcomed Kirsten Schlewitz to write an article.  Kirsten writes a lot of great football articles from her home in the USA.  Through her family origins, Kirsten follows Slovakia with particlar interest and this is the first, of hopefully a few, guest appearances:

Luxembourg vs Slovakia

When I was eight years old, my father and I drove around in what is commonly referred to as a “pea soup” fog before pulling into the driveway. We made it up to the door of the house before realizing we were at the wrong door. I share this story because that’s what it was like watching Slovakia play Luxembourg on Wednesday. By the second half, it was near impossible to see the ball, much less identify the players nearest it. But although Slovakia lost 2-1 to Luxembourg, the circumstances weren’t quite as dire as one might believe by simply reading the scoreline.

Due to my inability to see much of the match through the mist-o-death, this match report might not be as detailed as some might like. Yet on the plus side for many, you won’t be subject to a minute-by-minute account of how Miroslav Stoch looked in the last thirty minutes of the match, mostly because I never saw the player who has so firmly captured my heart. It all evens out, I suppose.

Much of the match was spent in utter frustration. Some of that came from the play on the field—particularly when the back line kept booting the ball up the pitch, only to send it straight to the Luxembourg keeper. The home defense held a high back line that kept any Slovakian player from pushing through to snatch one of these long balls. Soon, though, my frustration turned to the announcer on the Fox Soccer broadcast, who was unable to name a single Slovakia player, save for Róbert Vittek, for the first 24 minutes of the match. And as I’m sure you’re aware, Vittek was not on the pitch on Wednesday. Fans of Slovakia expecting a decent commentary in English are typically disappointed, but most of the time it’s at least expected that the announcer can identify the players. C’mon, Marek Hamšík? It’s not like he’s unknown, and half of the reason he’s known is for his hair. He’s fairly un-missable.

Anyway. The one true bright spot in the first half, and Slovakia’s sole scorer, was Erik Jendrišek. He was able to get himself into space and was the only Slovakia player to really trouble Luxembourg’s admittedly strong defense. The goal came in the 56th minute, off a beautiful cross that Hamšík hit on the volley. Jendrišek easily beat the Luxembourg defender (ok, I don’t know their names either, but I’m not paid to know) and slipped past the keeper to put the ball in the corner of the net. The rest of the Slovakia players went off to celebrate with Jendrišek but had difficulty locating him amidst the fog.

The celebration was short lived, anyway. Four minutes later, just as I got distracted by Miňo Stoch stripping down on the sidelines, Luxembourg’s substitute Daniel Da Mota scored. Luxembourg had been awarded a free kick and there was a scramble near the goal. Juraj Kucka, who had a pitiful match in every way, headed the ball straight to Da Mota’s feet, and the striker had no trouble poking it into the net.

Just a few minutes later, Kucka made way for Radoslav Zabavník while Vladimír Weiss, who also had a decent game, came off for Stoch, who promptly disappeared into the mist and made me sad. Then Peter Pekarík came off and František Kubík, earning his first cap for Slovakia and making certain fans of ADO Den Haag ecstatic, I’m sure, replaced him (I know there must have been tactical changes involved in these substitutions, but I challenge you to see them in the swirling fog). Finally, Marián Kello took the place of Ján Mucha. These substitutions, many of which would not occur in a competitive match, ultimately led to the goal and Luxembourg’s win.

It was Da Mota, again, who found the net for Luxembourg. He grabbed the ball and easily stepped around Zabavník. Kello, on the pitch for just a few minutes, decided to run toward the play rather than staying in front of goal, left the net wide open. It was a simple goal for Da Mota, but one that likely would not have occurred had Mucha still been in the net.

And that’s how the score stayed: 2-1 Luxembourg, with both goals courtesy of Da Mota. It looks bad, I know. After all, Luxembourg are at the bottom of Euro Group D, their only point coming from a draw with Belarus.  While the fog shouldn’t be used as an excuse, the conditions were truly horrible. Add to that the fact that almost every one of the referee’s calls went in favor of the home team, and the last minute substitutions that caused a few mental breakdowns in defense…well, the loss really isn’t a surprise, when evaluated that way. Yet bringing in, say, Milan Lalkovič certainly wouldn’t go amiss. The youngster’s speed and precision in front of goal could have put Slovakia ahead much earlier on in the match, and saved the team from having to use the fog as an excuse.

Oh, and if you’re still upset with Slovakia’s loss to Luxembourg, take a look at this photo:

The night before the match, Vladi Weiss decided to teach his teammates how to play Monopoly, and share the results on Twitter. On Wednesday morning, he declared himself the Monopoly champion. So Slovakia have one victory on their side this week. Any thoughts as to whether Daddy Weiss needs to pull his “Get Out Of Jail Free” card? (Thank@Napoli_Blogger for the horrible pun).

You can follow Kirsten on Twitter or her own blogspace

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