JOHANNESBURG - Slovakia have already
exceeded expectations by reaching the last 16 in their first
World Cup and hope to repeat the lively performance that beat
holders Italy when they face Netherlands in the next round.
After the feeble showing in a 2-0 defeat by Paraguay, in
which they had just one shot on target, Slovakia transformed
themselves on Thursday into an unrecognisable outfit that worked
together as a fluid unit to stun Italy 3-2 and send them home.
The debutants finished second behind the South Americans in
Group F and will face Group E winners Netherlands on Monday.
"Let's hope we can play a similar game to today but of
course the Netherlands are among the favourites for this World
Cup," double goalscorer Robert Vittek told a news conference.
The tall striker finds himself joint top scorer with
Argentina's Gonzalo Higuain on three goals after heading
Slovakia's goal in their opening 1-1 draw with New Zealand.
"It's not about me, for all of us the victory is important,"
said the modest 28-year-old.
"Of course being voted man of match is important but I would
like to cut this trophy into pieces and share it with my team
mates. I was lucky I was in the right place at the right time."
The players had said before the tournament that their
biggest weapon was their ability to work well as a team. That
showed not only on the pitch but afterwards when they all stuck
together to avoid the media.
Their decision to stay silent when walking past reporters
came after a difficult week with the media with players
frustrated over criticism they were receiving at home over their
With no harsh words possible after such a shining
performance against Italy, they may decide to draw a line under
the standoff, especially since the country's football federation
has said they need to improve relations.
No matter what happens next, the team have already broken
new ground for their country on football's biggest stage.
"It is the first time in our history, it is very important,
also for the future it's important," coach Vladimir Weiss said.
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