Slovakia Camp Focus – Skrtel expects to be fit ahead of World Cup opener

Slovakia have been dealt another injury blow ahead of their World Cup campaign. Centre-back Martin Skrtel limped out of Saturday’s friendly against Costa Rica after just 13 minutes, with a suspected ankle injury.

The 25-year-old defender was rushed to hospital during the warm-up game in Bratislava, but scans on his ankle revealed it was not as bad as first thought. “It is not too bad, it is just a gash, I think that in a few days it will be okay. It was an unlucky challenge,” Skrtel told the Slovakian Football Association’s website. The Liverpool man has suffered an injury-plagued season domestically, breaking a metatarsal in February, which made him a doubt for the 23-man World Cup squad. Skrtel expects to be fit for the big kick-off against New Zealand, but the injury will be a worry for Coach Vladimir Weiss who has already lost experienced midfielder Miroslav Karhan to an Achilles tendon problem and has major doubts over the fitness of strikers Filip Holosko, recovering from a broken leg, and Robert Vittek, who has been suffering from a long-term knee problem.

There were, however, quite a few positives to take out of the game for Weiss as his side romped to a 3-0 victory over the Central American outfit. It took only 16 minutes for the World Cup qualifiers to take the lead as Costa Rican defender Douglas Esteban Solano Sequeira diverted a Vladimir Weiss Jnr cross into his own net. From here the hosts dominated the low-key encounter, and early in the second half Vittek announced his return from injury with a close-range tap-in after Stanislav Sestak’s effort came back off the crossbar. It was then Sestak’s turn to get his name on the scoresheet by converting from the penalty spot in the 88th minute.

Despite the manor of the victory, the major talking was indeed Skrtel’s withdrawal due to injury. Although there is some positive news on the injury front for Weiss Snr, as goalkeeper Dusan Kuciak looks to have overcome his knee injury ahead of the journey to South Africa. The 25-year-old stopper sustained the injury during the Repre’s 1-1 draw with Cameroon last weekend and has been receiving treatment since then. His progress has delighted the Coach: “I believe Dusan is rapidly recovering and will be okay as soon as possible.” The keeper, who plays his club football in Romania with SC Vaslui, will play the backup role to Jan Mucha despite overcoming his knee injury. Mucha’s performances during qualification have cemented his place as No.1 for the national side and drew special praise from injury hit striker Holosko, who in a recent interview declared the man between the posts as the side’s most important player ahead of playmaker Marek Hamsik.

Meanwhile, Hamsik himself has insisted the hype surrounding the squad ahead of the summer showpiece tournament is a not a distraction. It will be Slovakia’s first ever appearance as an independent nation after the break from Czechoslovakia in 1993 in the so called ‘Velvet Divorce’, and as a result there has been much attention surrounding the team’s progress, which has been met by feelings of pride by the Captain. “We are pleased that the people of Slovakia are so interested in our progress at the World Cup. Therefore I am personally very pleased to deal with signatures and pose for pictures and movies. It’s for their memories. Perhaps such events to help popularise football in our country even more is just what our sport needs.”

Slovakia will be in action next as they kick-off against New Zealand in Rustenburg, where they will be confident of victory against the Oceania representatives. From there they will take on Paraguay in what looks to be the decider for the runner-up spot in Group F, before their final group game against world champions Italy.


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