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Slovakia success made in Zilina

MŠK Žilina provide five of Slovakia's 18-strong UEFA European Under-17 Championship squad, the latest batch of talent to be produced by the northern Slovak club.

The Slovakia squad features five MŠK Žilina players
The Slovakia squad features five MŠK Žilina players ©Sportsfile

Posters bearing the 2013 UEFA European Under-17 Championship slogan Hviezdy vychádzajú u nás (Rising stars will shine here) are plastered all around Zilina, the picturesque city in northern Slovakia where potential future big names will contest the continental title on 17 May.

The phrase could already have been applied to Zilina's football club, which has proven a fertile source of some of Slovakia's best players. Marek Mintál, Tomáš Hubočan and current senior co-coach Stanislav Griga all began their careers in the shadow of the Tatra mountains, and there is no sign of the supply drying up.

The U17 side that have captured the imagination of the country on their first finals appearance at this level contain five raw talents plucked from the ranks of MŠK Žilina, making the 2010/11 UEFA Champions League participants the most-represented Slovak club in Ladislav Pecko's squad.

"They gather the best players from Slovakia and work with them for years," Pecko explained to UEFA.com. "We more or less chose the players we were counting on for the finals at the time it was announced we would host the tournament. We relied on their long-term work."

The benefit of the club's patience is now being reaped by the nation. Martin Slaninka is the championship's top scorer with two goals while the cross for his match-winning strike in the opening game against Austria was supplied by Žilina team-mate Lukáš Čmelík. Defenders Denis Vavro and Andrej Kadlec, and midfielder Miroslav Káčer have started both Group A matches to date.

"It is much easier for us to play together in the national team. We know each other very well. We can sense where the other is on the pitch, we know what to expect," said full-back Kadlec.

"It is always good to have your team-mates in the national team," forward Čmelík told UEFA.com. "It makes your life easier from the start."

Slovakia's results so far have also helped Pecko's squad ease into their maiden final tournament. Slaninka's equaliser to complete a comeback from two goals down to draw with Switzerland in Zilina on Wednesday means only a further point is required from Saturday's meeting with Sweden to ensure the hosts a semi-final berth.

"The EURO is a great experience for us. We have achieved good results up till now," said Kadlec, who added the support the team have received has been a key factor in their success. "A lot of people have come to our games – that motivates us. Playing in our home venue makes it easier as well. There are many friends watching our matches at the stadium."

Čmelík added: "We have a good chance to make it to the semis, and it would be a pity to miss out. But let's not talk about medals. We are not through yet!"