Slovakia great Popluhár passes away

Slovakia is mourning the death of Ján Popluhár, a world-class defender who shone at the 1962 FIFA World Cup and was later named the country's footballer of the 20th century.

Ján Popluhár in action in 1963
Ján Popluhár in action in 1963 ©Hulton Archive

Slovakia's footballer of the 20th century, Ján Popluhár, passed away on Sunday aged 75.

A world-class defender, Popluhár played a pivotal role at the heart of the Czechoslovakia team that reached the 1962 FIFA World Cup final, losing to Brazil, having also appeared at the 1958 tournament. The gentlemanly sweeper's contribution to the Slovak game was recognised decades later, in 2004, when he was named Slovakia's golden player of the last century as part of UEFA's golden jubilee celebrations.

Popluhár is best known for the 15 seasons he spent with ŠK Slovan Bratislava where he made 262 appearances, scoring 21 goals. He subsequently turned out for FC Zbrojovka Brno and Olympique Lyonnais before winding down his career in Austria with amateur club SK Slovan Wien, where he was player-coach.

His honours included Czechoslovakian Cup successes in 1962, 1963 and 1968, while he was voted the country's Footballer of the Year in 1965 despite the great form of national-team colleague Josef Masopust. Speaking two years ago, Masopust, the 1962 European Footballer of the Year, said of Popluhár: "He was like a pillar, yet with speed and vision."

Popluhár was made an honorary member of the Slovak Football Association (SFZ) in 2010. His final public appearance was for Jozef Vengloš's 75th birthday last month.