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Slovakia's Haraslín leaves with head held high

After leading Slovakia to an unlikely semi-final spot, captain Lukáš Haraslín has turned his sights on the FIFA U-17 World Cup, but still harbours some regrets after defeat to Italy.

Lukáš Haraslín despairs at the final whistle against Italy
Lukáš Haraslín despairs at the final whistle against Italy ©Sportsfile

Slovakia captain Lukáš Haraslín is aiming to deliver more moments to remember for his country's football fans, turning his sights to October's FIFA U-17 World Cup after the hosts' run to the UEFA European Under-17 Championship semi-finals was ended by Italy.

The ŠK Slovan Bratislava midfielder is taking confidence from the performances in their home country, and sees a bright future for the team who shocked many, but was nonetheless downbeat after Ladislav Pecko's side's fairytale run came to an end. "We are sad, but we have to keep our heads up, there are plenty of tournaments ahead of us, and the World Cup is coming up," said the 16-year-old. "We achieved our goal – we can be proud of our performance at this tournament."

The experience was not just a positive one for the side, but for Slovak football in general according the captain. "Slovakian football needs successes like this one. The national team did well at the 2010 World Cup, and we tried to follow their example and I think that is what we did. I enjoyed the tournament very much – I think everyone enjoyed it. The fans, all the players, all the coaches, everyone. It was a great experience on which we can build in the future."

For all that, there will remain a nagging question of whether the unfancied side could have gone all the way, but Haraslín was quick to admit Italy were better on the day. "The Italians came and pushed us back with an aggressive approach and we made a big mistake right at the beginning which was crucial," he lamented. "They punished us and it was decisive in the game."

There may be lingering regrets, but Slovakia's performances have guaranteed another shot at a trophy, and they will take their underdog act to the United Arab Emirates, and the world stage, where more big names will be under threat. "We will try to surprise everyone again," said the No17.