WORLD CUP HISTORY: Under the guise of Czechoslovakia, the nation qualified for the World Cup on eight occasions. South Africa marks the debut of Slovakia as an independent nation.
QUALIFICATION: Qualifying was not smooth sailing for the Slovaks, but only one loss in the campaign saw Slovakia emerge as surprise group winners, seeing fellow Eastern European nations in the Czech Republic and Poland fail to qualify for even the playoffs. Twenty-two goals in ten matches was an impressive return, as the steady improvement the nation has shown since independence in 1993 has continued.
KEY PLAYER: Marek Hamsik. The Napoli midfielder will orchestrate most of his country’s attacks. A goal-scorer in Serie A, Hamsik has been a fixture on the national side since Euro 2008. This past season he again led his club with 12 goals. The comparisons with his idol, the great Pavel Nedved, are becoming more and more obvious.
EXPECTATIONS: Group F will be a huge challenge for Slovakia. Italy front the group, but Paraguay have a squad expected to turn many heads in South Africa. New Zealand offers three points, but 2010 might just be too soon for the side. But the future is bright.