Friday, 2 July 2010

Interview for "The People's Game Radio Show"

"7560 Minutes Later" features in a recent episode of "The People's Game" - catch up with what I have to say on a range of topics, mainly Slovakia's World Cup past, present & future as well as watching football in Hong Kong. My work is currently keeping me rather busy, but I will do my best do upload some more articles by the end of this week! I am on from approx. 24:40.

Tuesday, 29 June 2010

200 Words on Slovakia v. Netherlands

Slovakia's win over Italy gave its fans something they had lacked - hope. The outlook of most fans ahead of the Netherlands game was no longer desperate - many acknowledged the strength of their team's opponent, yet had enough courage to ask the "what if?" question. Slovakia's players were on a similar boat - they found courage at the right moment, only to lose it when it mattered the most.

Sunday, 27 June 2010

200 Words on Slovakia v. Italy

When Pandora opened her pithos, she released all the evil spirits of the world, leaving Hope trapped inside. The joy of Slovakia's fans was extinguished and replaced with disappointment when their team conceded a goal in the dying seconds of their first-ever World Cup game. Agony continued against Paraguay - even if La Albirroja played without their goalkeeper, they would still win 2-1.

Despair took over - fan forums were filled with posts, posts were filled with anger. Slovakia's presence at the World Cup was described as a matter of pure luck, Weiss's coaching skills were questioned, many players labelled as hopeless. Weiss's outburst of rage lead him to swear at Slovak journalists.

Pandora must have reopened her pithos on Thursday and it certainly contained more than just Hope. Most match reports focused on Italy's shambolic play, overshadowing their opponent's performance. Slovakia delivered played like a real team. Rookie Kucka was one of the best players on the pitch; veteran Štrba kept playing despite suffering a knee injury which later on required twelve stitches; the often-criticized striker Vittek scored two goals. It was a moment of great pride for every Slovak - those, who made it happen, deserve one big "ďakujem".

Friday, 18 June 2010

200 Words on Slovakia v. New Zealand

Three days later I finally mustered the courage to reflect on Tuesday's match. My expectations were nearly as high as disappointment that kicked in after Winston Reid scored - it has been with me ever since. I am not bitter about his goal - I am happy for New Zealand and disappointed about what I saw on the pitch. It reminded me of the dark days of Slovak football that lasted for over 15 years. 

Apologies for the lack of length - you may find this reflection in The Observer this coming Sunday and they have their limits. I have also started my job in HK, leaving me with very little spare time - I will, however, try my best to keep things as up-to-date as possible.

Friday, 11 June 2010

Interview for Italian 'Serie A' Football FanCast

"7560 Minutes Later" features in the most recent "Italian 'Serie A' Football FanCast" - please find all the details below. I'd advise you to listen to it in its entirety - the insight of its guests is truly unique. If you are only interested in what I have to say, I am on from approx. 38:20 - enjoy my podcasting premiere!

Wednesday, 9 June 2010

Slovakia World Cup 2010 fan's preview: Paraguay will be make or break [unabridged & Aptured]

You might have come across my Slovakia-centric World Cup preview for the Guardian Fans' Network and some answers might not have made much sense [e.g. why am I worried by Paraguay's striker Lucas Barrios?] - below is the unabridged version of the preview that should put some answers into perspective.

Monday, 7 June 2010

Slovakia v. Costa Rica

A visit to the Pasienky stadium on a warm Saturday afternoon brought back memories from more recent as well as more distant past. Pasienky [Slovak for "pastures"] used to house Inter Bratislava, a club that provided Slovakia with much of its exciting young talent in the late 1990s and the early 2000s [see this "7560 Minutes Later" article for more detail - subheading "Mirage 2000"], a club where three Vladimír Weisses spent parts of their football careers [the eldest won a silver medal at the 1964 Olympic football tournament; Senior is Slovakia's current manager; Junior one of the rising stars of Slovak football], a club that sold its major players and, some years later, ceased its existence, a situation that was repeated earlier on this year with the legendary Artmedia Bratislava. Pasienky is also the last remaining stadium in Bratislava - Artmedia's old stadium was sold for "property development", whereas Tehelné Pole, located just across the road from Pasienky, is awaiting its demolition and should rise from the ashes as the new "National Football Stadium". All in all, it was a very symbolic place for concluding Slovakia's World Cup preparations and Costa Rica, that recently narrowly lost to France [1:2] and beat another World Cup side Switzerland [1:0], seemed like a decent-enough opponent.

Friday, 4 June 2010

World Cup in Slovakia - Part 1 - TV adverts

The World Cup fever is finally on in Slovakia and local TV screens are more and more often filled with adverts that try to make the most out of the debut of the country's players at the tournament.

Tuesday, 1 June 2010

Slovakia's final 23-man squad named

With only two weeks separating Slovakia from its first-ever World Cup game against New Zealand [15/06 @ 1.30pm in Rustenburg], manager Weiss named his final 23-man squad for the tournament.

Monday, 31 May 2010

Slovakia v. Cameroon

The LED advertising panel could not have put it more bluntly, mixing the words "готовся" and "get ready" - if it did not bear the logo of Russia's 2018-2022 World Cup bid, it would  reflect what was about to happen on the pitch of Klagenfurt's Hypo-Arena. The stadium, filled nowhere close to its maximum capacity, hosted two teams that would most definitely not have met under any different circumstances. With preparations for the World Cup reaching their peak, Weiss's Slovakia and Le Guen's Cameroon locked horns in a game that was supposed to provide answers to some pressing questions.

Friday, 28 May 2010

It is the Final Countdown!

With only two weeks to go until the start of the World Cup, it is about time to wake this blog up from its hibernation. I have been rather tardy with keeping it up to date, relying mostly on Twitter as I was busier than anticipated with some other things. At the same time, Slovak press has been relatively calm, and the Slovak football scene without any major developments, so you have not missed out on much.

Wednesday, 3 March 2010

Slovakia v. Norway

With 99 days and 7 hours left until the long-awaited kick-off, Slovakia donned slightly redesigned World Cup tops and faced Norway in the first of three pre-WC friendlies. Manager Weiss had to do without a couple of key players, Liverpool's centre-back Martin Škrtel [broken metatarsal] and VfL Bochum's Stanislav Šesták [back injury], whereas Norway's Olsen missed John Carew, sidelined with a knee injury. This game was seen by many as preparation for the must-win game against New Zealand - most fans were not prepared to settle for anything less than a win. Instead, Slovakia displayed its clinical weaknesses, namely sloppy defending and inefficient attack, failing to convert numerous clear-cut chances. The lack of the squad's depth is a constant problem - without Škrtel's support, his fellow centre-back's [Ján Ďurica] performance suffers significantly, and it was after his defensive blunder that Norway scored the only goal of the game. Šesták is similarly influential upfront - afterall, his 6 goals made real difference during the World Cup qualifiers [especially these two against Poland].

Saturday, 30 January 2010

The Three Young Hopes of Slovakia - Epilogue - The Future is Bright

Germany ended Czechoslovakia's semifinal hopes at the 1990 World Cup after converting a controversial penalty in the quarter-finals. Czechoslovakia waved goodbye to one generation of players, such as Kocian, Hašek and Chovanec, but the team retained its quality - Skuhravý, Moravčík, Kubík and the young talent Dubovský came painfully close to qualifying for the 1994 World Cup, only to experience the bitter disappointment of 1990 for one last time. The final game of the qualifiers ended in a goalless draw, despite RCS ["Representation of Czechs and Slovaks" - Czechoslovakia split into the Czech Republic and Slovakia on 01/01/93; the game was played on 17/11/93] pressuring the 10-men Belgium for over an hour. The match was a sign of things to come - Slovakia had only two players in the starting XI [Moravčík & Dubovský]. The Czech Republic retained most of Czechoslovakia's football talent throughout the 1990s, and youngsters Šmicer, Nedvěd and Poborský [with his legendary lob against Portugal] shone brightly during the Euro 1996, whereas Slovakia failed to produce a player capable of suppplementing Dubovský's and Moravčík's brilliance.

Tuesday, 26 January 2010

The Three Young Hopes of Slovakia - Part 3 - Vladimír "Vladko" Weiss

The inclusion of Vladimír "Vladko" Weiss alongside Peter Dubovský, Marek Hamšík and Miroslav Stoch might seem controversial. While the latter two players feature prominently in their respective team's starting XI, Weiss spent the first half of the current season on Manchester City's bench, getting more playtime for Slovakia than for his club. His current predicament runs in a perfect parallel with that of Stoch a season ago - a promising graduate of his club's youth academy who suddenly finds himself in a squad filled with some of the most expensive football players of the EPL and beyond. Even the club's strategic thinking is similar - both Chelsea and Man City have used Stoch and Weiss as proofs of their vision for the future player policy, based not only on record transfers, but also on youth academies. With Weiss loaned out to Bolton less than a week ago and expected to feature in tonight's game against Burnley, the time is right for looking at Weiss's past, present and short-term future.

Sunday, 17 January 2010

The Three Young Hopes of Slovakia - Part 2 - Miroslav "Miňo" Stoch

While Marek Hamšík's ascend to the world of top class football was gradual, with a stop-over at the Seria B side Brescia Calcio, winger/attacking midfielder Miroslav Stoch found himself near the summit before he reached the age of 17. A decent amount of technical skill combined with young Stoch's drive towards the opponent's goal compensated for his short stature [1.68m/5 ft 6 in] - Chelsea was more than convinced and signed the youngster, who was to become the pride of Chelsea's Youth Academy. The story, however, did not stop there.

Thursday, 7 January 2010

Slovakia v. New Zealand - penalty shoot-out [?]

Most Top 100 tennis players are participating in various tournaments in the Antipodes in the build up to the first Grand Slam of the year - at Auckland's ASB Classic, Slovakia's Dominika Cibulková met New Zealand's Marina Erakovic in what Slovakian media called a "World Cup prequel". A penalty shoot-out took place and unlike a certain daily, "7560 Minutes Later" is not going to spoil the outcome for you. Enjoy the show!

Monday, 4 January 2010

Slovakia to face Norway in friendly

The SFZ confirmed that Slovakia will start 2010 with a friendly against Norway, which is to be played on Wednesday, 03/03/2010 at a yet to be confirmed venue in Slovakia [most likely Stadium Pod Dubňom in Žilina that also hosted Slovakia v. Chile in November].

Saturday, 2 January 2010

The Three Young Hopes of Slovakia - Part 1 - Marek "Marekiaro" Hamšík

Marek Hamšík is the oldest of the "Three Young Hopes of Slovakia", a group of players that in many respects differs from Peter Dubovský, whose star shone so brightly on the Czechoslovak football scene in the early 1990s. Hamšík, just as his fellow midfielders Miroslav Stoch and Vladimír Weiss Jr., left Slovakia in his teenage years, aged 16. Stoch and Weiss Jr. were products of well-established "football factories" - youth teams of first-league sides - FC Nitra in Stoch's case [Ľubomír Moravčík's former club] and Inter Bratislava in Weiss's case. Both players were transferred to Premier League teams, [Chelsea and Man City respectively], excelled in their youth academies and, following their "graduation", faced quite a fight to secure a place in their clubs' "we-do-not-buy-a-player-for-less-than-£10m" line-up. The story of "Marekiaro" is different.

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