The first match that the Slovakian team has ever played in the World Cup as an independent nation kicked off at 1.30 pm today, as they took on the New Zealand national team. It was the Kiwis that put on most pressure from kick-off, while the Slovak defence tried to find its shape. Already in the 4th minute the Kiwis had almost taken the lead after a close header went straight to Slovak goalkeeper Mucha, who just managed to keep hold of it on the line. The Slovak defence, although looking scrappy, kept their cool and it wasn’t long before Slovakia made its first attack on goal. This came in the 6th minute when Hamsik made a neat pass into the box, which just eluded Vittek, who with his years of experience would certainly have got it on target. The young Weiss soon made one if his runs down the left, only to put in a feeble shot straight to the goalie, or was it a cross?
In the 9th minute, the Kiwis were at it again. A long cross right into the box almost connected with the New Zealand forward, but Durica used his physical strength to get in front of him and clear for a corner.
Things started to calm down a little as the Slovak players settled into their positions. After about 20 minutes the Slovaks started being more attacking, and in the 26th minute their top goalscorer in the World Cup campaign, Sestak, had the best chance of the match so far. A good set of passes saw him with the ball at his feet in the box, and so he wasted no time as he thundered a shot towards goal. Unfortunately, it went just wide. He soon had another chance in the 29th minute, when the NZ goalkeeper fumbled a corner, but it fell just wide of his feet.
In the 32nd minute, a complete blunder by the goalkeeper fell straight to the feet of Weiss, but his attempt to get the ball inside was blocked and so it led to nothing.
In the 37th New Zealand had another chance, but it just went wide, allegedly touched by Slovak keeper Mucha.
A minute later Sestak headed into box at close range, but was just intercepted by the NZ goalie.
In the 42nd minute Hamsik was played a perfect ball from a free-kick, which he struck perfectly, but the goalkeeper at full stretch managed to touch it over the bar.
A few minutes into the second half and a long cross into the box met Vittek’s head, which he then transformed into Slovakia’s first ever World Cup goal. Slovakia were in the lead.
Slovakia spurred on with confidence, had more chances, while the Kiwis tried their best to retaliate, but with little effect.
Goalscorer Vittek was taken off in the 83rd, being replaced by former Chelsea super-sub Stoch. He was soon followed by Hamsik, who was taken off in the 90th minute so he could claim praise for a well-played game.
Then with just a few seconds to go in the 93rd minute, disaster struck for Slovakia as the unmarked New Zealand striker latched onto a cross, heading it in off the post to destroy Slovakia’s dream of a win.
Immediately afterwards, the referee blew the whistle to end the match, leaving the Slovak players, and the whole nation, feeling dejected at having been so close to winning. This could prove fateful for Slovakia’s hopes of going through to the next round, but that is football, unfortunately.
After the match, top goalscorer Sestak put the blame for the goal on Captina Hamsik, saying:
“Great teams are able to win 1:0. We failed to do this in the final seconds. If I had to give my opinion, it was clearly the midfielder’s fault (Marek Hamsik). Video-footage confirms this – he lost a duel when he could have simply cleared the ball,”
New Zealand team
05 Ivan Vicelich
07 Simon Elliott
12 Moss, 23 James Bannatyne, 02 Sigmund, 17 Mulligan, 18 Boyens, 08 Brown, 13 Andrew Barron, 15 McGlinchey, 16 Aaron Clapham, 21 Christie, 20 Wood, 22 Brockie
12 Pernis, 23 Kuciak, 02 Pekarik, 21 Salata, 22 Petras, 08 Kozak, 10 Sapara, 15 Stoch, 19 Juraj Kucka, 20 Kopunek, 13 Holosko, 14 Jakubko
Ref: Jerome Damon
Unfortunate, unlucky or just complacent, these things are just part and parcel of football and being at a World Cup – as mentioned in the article.
Many more twists and turns are in store for the Slovaks.
Football is only interesting when players are pushed to their limits and the next two games are sure to bring out the best and worst in the team.
Still all to play for I say