Behind the scenes during Slovakia's anxious wait
Wednesday, June 22, 2016
Les Célestins hotel in Vichy was a nervy place on Tuesday evening as Slovakia took to (the edge of) their seats to see whether or not they would advance. They weren't disappointed.
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Les Célestins hotel in Vichy hosted a nervous gathering on Tuesday evening. That is where the Slovakia team, still weary after their endeavors against England on Monday, watched the action unfold, to see whether their round of 16 berth would be confirmed – and they were not disappointed.
Northern Ireland's failure to get a point against Germany meant Slovakia were assured of one of the four best third-placed spots on offer. The celebrations, which began after the England match, resumed, even if they had never truly doubted it.
"This is a great feeling," said defender Ján Ďurica. "We are already looking forward for the next opponents."
But who will they be? It looks like a toss-up between thoroughbreds Germany in Lille on Sunday and dark horses Croatia.
Germany look most likely and, as formidable as Joachim Löw's team are, Slovakia know they can beat them – they did exactly that, 3-1, four weeks ago in a pre-tournament friendly. "If we can repeat that victory it would not be too bad for us," said Sampdoria defender Milan Škriniar.
Coach Ján Kozák is more circumspect but admits he does not really know what to think, with expectations for UEFA EURO 2016 already turned upside down. "Before the start of the EURO I felt that our hopes of going further rested on beating Wales in the first round, leaving us only needing one more point.
"It didn't happen. Wales beat us, but despite that we still got four points from two tough games. Players had to give their all and ended the last group game totally exhausted; some of them needed to visit the doctor the following day. But we have got what we wanted.
"Now, we are ready to resume the fight." Whoever they face.