Slovakia face make or break trips to Cyprus and the Republic of Ireland in UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifying Group D, but defender Marek Čech is pessimistic after their results last autumn.
Wins and losses
It looked good in September when Slovakia began the section with an impressive 6-1 win against Cyprus in Bratislava, but four days later the Czech Republic crossed the border and triumphed 3-0. Slovakia again hit form the following month with a 5-1 victory in Wales, only to return home and lose 4-1 to Germany that midweek. Ján Kocian's side now trail the Germans and Czechs by four points, and perhaps only a maximum haul from Nicosia on Saturday and Dublin next Wednesday would put fourth-placed Slovakia back into contention.
"It is looking very difficult as we have the Czech Republic and Germany in our group," Čech, 24, told uefa.com. "They have got in front and we have dropped points against both of them so it's going to be very difficult to qualify. It would be great to go to Cyprus, get a victory, and start a winning run. We had a good chance at the start, but now it is not looking so good."
There is an extra incentive for Slovakia - if they can turn their results around, they might just be in the hunt by the time their penultimate fixture, a trip to the Czech Republic, comes around in November. "It's a derby just like Spain against Portugal or Brazil against Argentina," Čech said. "For us the Czechs are big rivals and we want to beat them."
Čech has suffered disappointment with his club side recently, narrowly losing a UEFA Champions League Round of 16 tie 3-2 on aggregate to Chelsea FC, before going down 1-0 to Sporting Clube de Portugal at the weekend to allow SL Benfica to reduce Porto's lead to just one point. "I think over the two games we proved that we could match Chelsea, and maybe with a little bit of luck for us things would have been different," the full-back continued. "We now have to make sure we win the Portuguese championship. We are clear but it is still going to be difficult because Benfica are also a very good team. It is proving to be a hard season."
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