With Dundee United FC closing in on a European place for next season, goalkeeper Dušan Perniš is hoping he has done enough to join Slovakia at the FIFA World Cup finals.
A fine season in the Scottish Premier League has left United all but certain of claiming a UEFA Europa League berth, if not as the third-placed side in the league then as Scottish Cup winners, with Peter Houston's team preparing to take on Ross County FC in the final on 15 May. For keeper Perniš it has been a thrilling ride.
"Getting a European place was the club's main target this season; United missed out in the last game of last season," said the 25-year-old, the ninth Slovakian player to move to Scotland. "For me, just playing in a cup semi-final was a big moment. I never got that far in the cup back at home."
Perniš signed a two-and-a-half year contract with United in the winter, having been a member of the MŠK Žilina side that made it to the 2008/09 UEFA Cup group stage. He has been first choice ever since, with United losing only three of his 22 games in all competitions, including a goaless league draw with champions Rangers FC.
"A clean sheet is always a great feeling," he explained after that match, having overcome the language problems that had tested his resolve during those first weeks in Scotland. "Football here is different to back home; more aggressive, faster and with a lot more fans," he added. "I like it and hope playing here helps me get a ticket for World Cup."
Perniš's only international appearance to date came in a friendly game against Iceland last August, and while Legia Warszawa's Ján Mucha is the clear first-choice goalkeeper, the Dundee United man is hoping to be one of the two reserve custodians that Slovakia take to their first major final tournament as an independent nation.
Ľuboš Kamenár (FC Nantes), Dušan Kuciak (SC Vaslui), Ľuboš Hajdúch (Levadiakos FC) and Štefan Senecký (SK Slavia Praha) all have similar ambitions, but if Perniš can help United win their first Scottish Cup since their maiden success in 1994, his claims will be enhanced. "For sure, I want to be in the trio for South Africa," he added.
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