The undulating landscape with beautiful silhouettes of hills and mountains, calm rivers, the foothills of the Danube Plain as well as the rocky valleys of the High Tatras have long shaped the settlement of the population and has influenced the image of the area for generations.
With a population of roughly 5,4 million people, Slovakia has borders with the Czech Republic and Austria to the west, Poland to the north, Ukraine to the east, and Hungary to the south.
From the middle of the 10th to the end of the 11th century, Slovakia's territory progressively merged with Hungary, which in 1526 became part of the Habsburg monarchy, known as Austria-Hungary.
After the disintegration of Austria-Hungary in 1918, Slovakia was part of Czechoslovakia until 1993 (except during the war period of the Slovak Republic). On January 1, 1993, the independent Slovak Republic was established with the dissolution of Czechoslovakia.
The Czech-Slovak national football team was the national team that represented the Czech-Slovak football team at international events, such as the World Championships or European Championships.
Czechoslovakia's most notable achievements include finishing second in the 1962 World Cup, winning the 1976 European Championships, and winning the 1980 Olympics.
After the Second World War, the national team joined the Czech-Slovak team, and for more than 50 years Slovakia did not play matches as an independent country.
During this time, Slovakia contributed with several key players to the Czechoslovakian team, which won the 1976 European Football Championship (eight of the eleven players who defeated West Germany in the final were Slovaks).
The first official international match of Slovakia after the split of Czechoslovakia was held on 2 February 1994 in Dubai, where the Slovakian national team won 1: 0 against the United Arab Emirates.
The Slovak Football Association Slovakia (Slovenský futbalový zväz) is in charge of the team. The Slovak national football team is one of the youngest football teams in the world, together with the Czech national football team. Slovakia has not qualified for the EURO tournament from 1996 to 2012.
One of the greatest achievements of the Slovak national team is the eight-final participation in the 2010 World Cup. Slovakia qualified for the 2010 FIFA World Cup after finishing second in the qualifying group (New Zealand 1:1 Slovakia, Slovakia 0:2 Paraguay) and advanced through Italy, over which it won 3: 2. In the next eight-final match, Slovakia lost 2: 1 to Netherlands with Robert Vittek scoring the only goal for Slovakia.
This was the first time the team played in a major football competition. The national squad came near to qualifying for the 2006 FIFA World Cup but lost two matches against Spain (1: 5 away and 1: 1 at home).
The national team also achieved some notable results, such as the aforementioned victory over Italy at the 2010 World Cup, which was the title holder at the time, or the victory against Russia in September 2010, which enabled it to climb to 16th place in the FIFA rankings.
Despite this success, the national team later fell behind and as a result with that its form declined. The national squad failed to qualify for the European Football Championship 2012, finishing fourth in their qualification group. Qualification for the 2014 FIFA World Cup was also unsuccessful.
Despite all negative form the squad made tremendous improvement and qualified from second place for the European Football Championship 2016 in France. Only Spain was able to defeat the Slovaks in a home encounter (2: 1).
At the European Championships, Slovakia first lost to Wales (1: 2), then defeated Russia (2: 1) and played a valuable goalless draw with a strong England, thanks to which they advanced to the round of 16 where strong German team defeated Slovakia 3:0.
Slovakia has produced many icons and legends just to mention Jozef Vengloš who became the first manager born outside Britain or Ireland to take charge of a top division club in England. Jozef Vengloš was in charge of Aston Villa only for one season, finishing in 17th place in the domestic league.
The victory over Inter Milan (2: 0) in the UEFA Cup was his most notable achievement as a Birmingham coach. The renowned expert tried to introduce several new elements and game methods into traditional physical English football, such as more frequent combinations in the middle of the field, but due to high expectations and critical British media, he had a difficult adaptation.
Born in Bratislava, Czechoslovakia, Dubovský made his professional debut with local ŠK Slovan Bratislava, for whom he signed at the age of 13. Only four years later he made his first Czechoslovak First League appearance and went on to score 51 goals in only 59 appearances in his last two seasons combined (leading the scoring charts on both occasions).
After being named the Slovak Footballer of the Year in 1993, Dubovský moved to Spain and signed for La Liga giants Real Madrid. In his first season he appeared in 26 games but was completely ostracized by new manager Jorge Valdano, following the emergence of 17-year-old Raúl.
On 23 June 2000, Dubovský was on vacation in Thailand with his fiancée, in the southern resort of Ko Samui. While taking pictures of a waterfall, he tumbled and fell to his death, succumbing to heavy loss of blood and severe brain injuries.
He was 28 years old. He played in Spain 176 official matches with the shirt of Real Madrid and Real Oviedo scoring a total of 22 goals.
Nowadays, the Slovak national football team will present itself at the European Championships for the second time in the era of independence. However, the qualification was not that easy, and the Slovaks got into the barrage through the League of Nations.
In the Path B bracket of the qualifying playoffs, Slovakia hosted a selection of Ireland in Bratislava and the progress of the Slovak team was decided by a penalty shootout after a goalless draw (0:0, 4:2p).
The final has been decided in Belfast again a strong side of Northern Ireland where Slovakia defeated the home team 2: 1 after the extra time.
The ManagerThe 47-year-old Tarkovic became the interim Slovakia coach in October replacing Pavel Hapal, who was fired after the team’s poor results in the Nations League. Tarkovic have not had much playing experience in the past, previously playing lower division football in Presov or Bratislava.
Tarkovic was assistant to Jan Kozak when Slovakia qualified for Euro 2016 and advanced to the knockout stage. He also coached several Slovakian clubs, including MSK Zilina, MFK Kosice, Tatran Presov and was a technical director in the Slovakian National Association.
Star PlayersMartin Dubravka
Slovakia had several goalkeepers throughout the years, including Jan Mucha and Kamil Contofalsky, and Martin Dubravka is the most recent to wear the gloves for an extended period of time.
The Newcastle United goalkeeper made his Slovakia debut in 2014, but it took another three years for him to establish himself as the undisputed number one. Martin Dubravka is a well-known name in the Premier League.
Since making his Premier League debut in February 2018, Dubravka has stopped 69.19 per cent of shots faced, putting him in the company of David de Gea, Lukasz Fabianski (both 70%), Kasper Schmeichel (67.84 per cent), and Rui Patricio (67.71 per cent).
Martin Skrtel was the star of Slovakia's defence for a long time, but after his retirement from international football, Milan Skriniar has taken his place. The Inter Milan centre-back has established himself as one of Europe's top modern defenders.
Skriniar is not the most powerful in the air, but his tackling is fantastic, and he's great with the ball at his feet, making him ideal for a team like Inter Milan, which prefers to build from the back. He is going to be one of the key players for the Slovakian defence at the EURO’s.
The 33-year-old Slovakian attacking midfielder moved to IFK Göteborg after terminating his contract at Chinese Super League club Dalian Professional, with whom he had plied his trade since a 2019 switch from Serie A team Napoli.
Hamsik is Slovakia’s most-capped player, representing the nation 126 times in 14 years and continues to ooze class when on the pitch, barely losing a step since leaving Napoli. For a period, Hamsik was Napoli's top scorer, beating Diego Maradona.
His leadership and strong midfield positioning will be crucial for the proper functioning of the Slovakian midfield. His experience could help other young players and Slovakia will rely on him for sure.
Slovakia's current line-up lacks scoring forwards, with the majority of goals coming from the midfield, although Michal Duris looks to have the manager's faith and will most likely lead the line in the summer.
The 32-year-old, who will be 33 by the time Euro 2020 arrives, has seven goals in 54 appearances for Slovakia, although his caps have been evenly distributed between starts and substitute appearances.
However, he did score one of Slovakia's most crucial goals, sending them to Euro 2020 by scoring the game-winning goal in the play-off final against Northern Ireland.
Now he will be attempting to get his name on the scoresheet in a major tournament and with his experience, Slovakia will expect a couple of goals from him.
Rising starsRobert Bozenik
The 21-year-old striker is a rising star for the Slovakian squad. His move from MSK Zilina to Eredivisie side Feyenoord could benefit the national squad and the coaching tips for Robin Van Persie would be one day priceless.
In the season 2019/2020 the young striker had a strong competition on the striker post with the Columbian striker Luis Sinisterra and the Dutch Bryan Linssen. During his spell at the Feyenoord, he played 22 games scored 4 goals and have one assist in all competitions.
He is obviously a one player to watch, and I will not be surprised if in a couple of years ago a bigger club will be looking at him.
Davis Strelec is the new gem of Slovakian football. According to the prestigious L'Équipe, Dávid Strelec is the 49th greatest talent in the world under the age of 20. The Slovan Bratislava’s striker scored 9 goals and had 5 assists in the recent season which made him a TOP 10 goal scorer in the league.
David scored one goal for the National squad. Despite being the top young talent, the striker is held back by the Slovakian competition level. In comparison to international competitions, the Slovak league's level is not optimal and therefore his development needs to continue somewhere else.
However, the young striker have to wait for another years as the manager did not include him to the final squad.
FormationEven though we have only seen three games from Tarkovic's Slovakia, the 48-year-old looks to have already figured out the shape he wants his squad to take.
Tarkovic has used a 4-1-4-1 formation in two of Slovakia's three matches so far, including the 2-1 win against Northern Ireland that qualified Slovakia for Euro 2020. This formation provides a nice balance of defensive stability and attacking danger.
However, in the recent friendly against Bulgaria he used a 4-2-3-1 formation. Therefore, at the EUROS we can expect from him to play on a one striker upfront with an overload in the midfield providing a defensive stability against strong teams.
ChancesThe Slovaks qualified for the European Championships this year through a long series of play-offs based on their results in the UEFA Nations League. Additionally, the Slovakian team has been relegated to the C group from the UEFA Nations league.
Now playing in the EURO group E they will be competing against a three-time champions Spain, a Polish squad led by Europe's and maybe the world's greatest centre forward -Robert Lewandowski and a hard-working Swedish team weakened by Zlatan Ibrahimović’s injury.
As long we would like to see Slovakia in the knockout stages for the second consecutive time we have to face the reality and admit that given the relative strength of the Euro 2020 Group E competitors, the odds are low.
Overall, it appears to be a difficult task, however everyone also thought that 2010 FIFA World Cup was difficult, and Slovakia managed to beat Italy. A possible surprise in their encounter against Sweden could benefit the team in Slovakia's favour.
However, as the chances are not high, the Slovaks will be hoping to earn at least one draw or win and finish on the 3rd /4th place.
Written by Roderik Valko. Instagram: @rodck.20