The weather in Bratislava on Saturday had been 30+C all day, but it became increasingly obvious throughout the day that by evening this match-being played at the 80% roofless Pasienky-would be hit by thunderstorms. It was just a question of how wet were going to get in the stands, and how much this might affect the play on the pitch.
Once again, Weiss surprised us all with the following selection:
Seemingly maximising attacking potential from the start, this 4-3-3 looking line-up included in-form Filip Sebo, alongside Filip Holosko and Robert Vittek upfront. A midfield trio of Hamsik, Kucka and Jez looks, on paper at least, balanced, strong and varied. Along with wing-backs willing to get forward at any opportunity, you couldn’t ask for more in terms of intent from Weiss. You even have a play-maker, Miroslav Karhan, playing in defence, as correctly predicted by James Baxter. Surprise omissions on the night were Erik Jendrisek & Erik Čikoš but all things considered, I was fairly confident that this team could deliver the 3 points and 3 goals which Weiss had been calling for pre-match.
The ground was no fuller than for a big Slovan league game, with the attendance swelled significantly by the ‘Slovenski Representantit Detom’ behind the far goal. In a move presumably organised by the SFZ, some several hundred school-kids were in nice and early in their white-blue-red co-ordinated t-shirts. It’s great to see children being encouraged to attend the match, but we should remember that this will have significantly added to the attendance, which at 4,200 for a competitive match in the capital is dire. ”The weather conditions played a big role” they might say, true, but providing a stadium with decent vantage points, some level of comfort and a roof might also play a big role. Ho-hum.
Slovakia attacked the far-goal and once again, I think I will leave most of the tactical analysis of this match to readers who may have been watching at home and be better placed to offer constructive comments than myself. As usual at Pasienky, I could blame the vantage point or the 10 minutes spent trying to get a beer, but honestly I can’t think of much to say about the first half. Maybe I should start paying for the better seats, but at €15 or €25 -by local standards- this is quite an outlay.
The Slovakia formation seemed disjointed at times, hard to fathom whether Holosko and Vittek were actually playing up front, or hanging back / drifting wide. Most of the attacking intent seemed to come through Marek Cech down the wing and it was hard to see exactly where Hamsik fitted into things.
Sebo did look sharp up front, he made plenty of runs and was always causing headaches for the defenders but the lack of coherency between him, his fellow attackers and the midfielders meant that any chances were created more by luck than anything else. Andorra were exactly what we expected them to be, defensive, solid, hard to break-down but offering nothing up front. A goal-less first half surely meant for some changes and stern words from Weiss at half time. Unfortunately, as I was looking forward to seeing him play, Juraj Kucka was also larely anonymous and his disappointing performance was ended after 46 minutes with another more attack-minded player, Stanislav Sestak coming on. Hamsik stayed on, of course.
As the second half started the pressure built, on both teams, it seemed. Slovakia were effectively camped in the Andorra half and pass the ball around neatly, but there was just no cutting edge from open play and even Sebo stopped running after a while. Statistics of 72% possession to the home team and just 1 shot from Andorra [I think that went out for a throw-in] tell the story, but as does the final score-line of 1-0. Hamsik had been taking the corners from right in front of us in the 2nd half and what a disaster that was. Every corner the same, limply arriving somewhere on the corner of the 6 yard box, far too low for a header. How easy to defend, but finally after 63 minutes, the break through came, again from a Hamsik corner delivered to the same area, this time Vittek got there soon enough to impede the defender and the ball came out invitingly for Miroslav Karhan to volley emphatically into the top corner. Unstoppable, excellent finish from Karhan and it was pleasing to see the joy on his, and Sebo’s faces while celebrating. Pity I can’t say the same for Hamsik, who barely broke stride from his follow-through from the corner to pat his team mates on the head as they happened to be celebrating there anyway.
In spite of the break-through Andorra remained steadfast in defence and Slovakia even struggled to create many more chances. The introduction of Slovan captain Igor Zofcak on 74 minutes was pleasing for the local fans, but this was perhaps a little late for Zofcak to affect any kind of influence on the match. Still it is a pity that the only goal in a match like this came from a 34-year old veteran of over 100 National team caps. Equally disappointing is that although it was a great goal, it resulted from a set-play, exactly the same way the only goal was scored in the away fixture. Please, don’t credit Hamsik with the assist on this one.
Just a couple of further remarks on individual performances; Robert Jez was clearly the best player on show, the way he holds his head up with the ball at his feet and distributes so accurately and naturally shows he clearly has a big future with the National team. He is one of the few players who seems to stick to his pre-determined role rather than wandering off with other ideas. The fact both he and Kucka started in a match where Slovakia were clear favourites should also bode well for when they will need to concentrate more on the defence. Expect to see much more of Jez and a well deserved man of the match award here tonight. Secondly, can anyone offer any explanation of why Robert Vittek stayed on for 90 minutes?
By Dan Richardson, BritskiBelasi
I agree , the situation in Petrzelka and this is again all glass and mirror’s with the new Mayor . I feel even the ground of FC Artmedia’s ( in Petrzelka ) with a bit of work to increase the capacity to 20,000 ( OK plus Floodlights and New Stand ) , could have become quite a good intimidating Bratislava Stadium for 95% of the internationals and as a Pop concert venue . How many games are Slovakia going to get over 15,000 crowd ???
With Slovak players my biggest disappointment if Mr Sebo …..He was unstoppable when Artmedia won the league with a goal a game almost. He got sold for 50 cents to some Austrian outfit, missed out on all the Porto, Rangers and Inter Milan fun, been around the block with a few clubs and now cannot hit a barn door from 10 paces …..
Always pleased to see my articles, or rather the state of Slovak football, stirring debate, whether on Britski Belasi or The Daily, so thanks to all for your comments.
Regarding Vittek, I do see his credentials and had absolutely no problem with him starting the match. I specifically mentioned that I was pleased with the attacking intent shown by Weiss in his selection. The question was why he stayed on for 90 minutes. He was totally ineffective in this match, never looked like scoring and actually looked like he was getting in the way most of the time. He looked out of form and his touch was poor. On the other hand, Vittek is a player who needs to link up with the playmakers – i.e. Hamsik to have a chance of scoring goals and if this wasn’t working then something should have been changed. My only question to Weiss would be, why put Piroska on the bench if you’re not willing to try him in a match like this when the other strikers aren’t performing and why leave Jendrisek out altogether – it seems as though the options are limited as a result ..
I don’t even really want to comment further on the stadium – I made my feelings known in the article. I agree with James that some pride should be swallowed and the majority of [big] matches should be played at Zilina until the situation in Bratislava is resolved. If you’re only getting 4,000 for a match like this, you might as well start playing games in Mihalovce, or Senec ..
True about Weiss’s style of play. Of course, you can’t do it against Andorra ; perhaps having to dictate games like this is what makes Slovakia look so limited. As for Vittek, there’s another way of looking at those goals. Against NZ, doesn’t matter that they were minnows, they were in the World Cup. Vittek was the only Slovak player capable of putting the ball in their net and it would have been the winner if Hamsik and the centre-backs had done their jobs properly. Against Italy, he was magnificent, giving one of the best forward’s performances of the whole WC, as this article nicely describes :
No argument about the Holland goal – it was meaningless, no more than a statistic.
Also, all this happened a year ago so doesn’t justify his place in the team now. I was one who felt he shouldn’t have started Saturday’s game. I just don’t think it’s quite fair to suggest (as Mr Wlado does) that he shouldn’t play at all.
The stadium? What’s the betting that Tehelne pole AND Pasienky will be apartments in 10 years and there’ll STILL be no ground, not even in Petrzalka?
I watch Vittek as a lad playing for Slovan . He did nothing all game, was plain lazy, drifting around, yet then score scored twice late on in the game. The way Slovakia set up to play, as I have said before, is to defend and frustrate for the first 30 minutes and then hit people on the break . For Weiss this has worked more times than he has lost, and actually suits Vittek’s style . As for his goals in the World Cup , I am not sure that proved his credentials as a striker, as he is a mood player. One goal against the ‘giants’ New Zealand, two in the Elephant vs Mouse game against the World Champions Italy and a very soft goal with the game already well lost against Holland .
As for the National Stadium , I agree the place is a tip, but this again is all about money, control , political button pushing and otherwise . The current government quickly cut the legs of the possible farce , which was looking like getting out of control , just like the over payment cost of the Ice Hockey Stadium . I understand the new National Stadium will be built in another area of Bratislava and the greedy owners of the current stadium can just sit and look at the huge white elephant . I bet it will be apartments in 10 years .
Also, as this article implies, Pasienky is utterly utterly unsuitable – plain embarassing in fact – as an international football venue. Zilina is the best ground in the country, has hosted three internationals in the last 18 months or so, full-houses (or near enough) at all three, everyone under cover, great atmosphere…. Yet, in true Slovak cock-up style, SFZ falls out with Jozef Antosik and now refuses point-blank to play in Zilina. Not saying Zilina is perfect ; for one thing it’s a bit on the small side. But on Saturday, there’d have been 6,500-7,000 or so, they’d have made some noise, which might have encouraged the team to play a bit better, and not risked pneumonia in the process.
I read yesterday that Pasienky didn’t even have functioning printing facilities on Saturday, so that the SFZ media liaison people had to sprint over to Polus in the rain to photocopy team-sheets for officials, journalists etc. An absolute, f***ing farce. You couldn’t make it up.
Could Vittek’s four goals in last year’s World Cup have something to do with it? OK, it’s a year ago but people were wondering then why he was in the team and he gave them the perfect answer.
My question is why Hamsik appears to be so bomb-proof. He’s so often ineffective for the national team (completely outshone by Jez on Saturday) yet Weiss, who can be very critical of certain individuals, never seems to publicly demand better from him.
I have no idea why Vittek plays at all . All Mr Poser is our Mr V , all big nose and sticky out ears . Are Slovakia not the ugliest team in Europe ?….any other contender suggestions ???