Only one team are making their FIFA World Cup finals debut in 2010 – Slovakia. That means at the age of 30 and despite struggling for form with his new club that had him fearing for his squad place, FC Saturn Moskovskaya Oblast striker Martin Jakubko will compete on the biggest international stage for the first time. He told UEFA.com that victory against New Zealand in their Group F opener next Tuesday would set Slovakia up nicely to face Paraguay and holders Italy.
UEFA.com: Slovakia have qualified for the World Cup for the first time. What do you feel before the start of the tournament?
Martin Jakubko: Honestly, I was really nervous during the training camp. Twenty-nine players were invited, but only 23 of them were named in final squad. I was afraid about not getting into the final selection, but now I do not feel any nerves and am looking forward to the first game against New Zealand. It will be the most important game. If we manage to win, hopefully everything will be fine.
UEFA.com: Can you talk a bit about your group opponents: New Zealand, Paraguay and Italy?
Jakubko: New Zealand, just like Slovakia, rarely take part in international tournaments and booked their place in a World Cup for only the second time. The first game against us will be decisive for them and they will give their best. Paraguay are a very skilful side. They are very similar to Chile, who defeated us in a friendly last autumn. And Italy are a well-known team. They have won the World Cup four times, including last time. That says it all about Italy.
UEFA.com: How far can Slovakia go?
Jakubko: I would like to avoid any predictions as there are many strong teams in this World Cup. There are a few national teams who are traditionally strong in these tournaments. Germany, for example. They are used to reaching final tournaments. We are newcomers. We'll see, as anything can happen.
UEFA.com: What do Slovakia supporters expect?
Jakubko: They are already happy as we have qualified. They want us to keep going and give them another reason to celebrate.
Everybody in Slovakia expects victory in our first match.
UEFA.com: It's not your first trip to South Africa ...
Jakubko: Yes, that's correct. My previous club FC Moskva had a training camp here and we also played in an international tournament. I have positive memories both about their football infrastructure and the country generally. They have decent training pitches, a beautiful country and hospitable people. We did not have any problems with them. Of course, I did not know at the time that 18 months later I would come back to play for the national team in the World Cup.
UEFA.com: Will you have personal supporters in South Africa?
Jakubko: My son was born in the autumn; if it is possible for him to stay with his grandmother, than my wife will come with me. My brother will go to South Africa for sure.
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