Marek Hamsik is our inspiration, says Slovakia’s captain Martin Skrtel

Slovakia's Marek Hamsik shoots

England will have to stop Marek Hamsik if they are to secure the draw with Slovakia that would ensure qualification to the Euro 2016 knockout phase, according to their captain, Martin Skrtel.

Hamsik was the man of the match in the 2-1 win against Russia in their second Group B game, scoring the second goal after creating Vladimir Weiss’s opener. Slovakia, who lost their opening match against Wales, are guaranteed a place in the last 16 if they beat England on Monday.

“He showed how important he is for our team and he showed his quality,” Skrtel said of the Napoli playmaker. “Not only that he scored, but in all the 90 minutes he was working for the team. He did great and he is very important for us. We just hope and believe that he can carry on playing like this in the next game.”

Skrtel is confident Slovakia can cause an upset, moreover. “England is still one of the best teams in the world, it’s going to be tough for us,” the Liverpool defender said, “but I believe we are ready and will get a result. Obviously for us as a small country, it’s massive. It’s our first time in the Euro and all the supporters have travelled over. You can see the connection between the players and the supporters. We are very happy that we got the win for them. It’s a great feeling.”

Skrtel echoed Gareth Bale’s claim for Wales that Slovakia, as a smaller nation, have a stronger sense of togetherness. “Yes, probably, especially when you play against the bigger countries,” he said.

“You can’t compare Slovakia and Russia. They are such different sizes. But on the pitch it’s always 11 v 11. We showed the desire and heart was on our side. We were under pressure in the second half but we kept fighting as a team.

“The pressure will be on England but I think they are experienced enough to cope. Everything will be decided on the pitch and I believe we can carry on the performance [from the Russia game]. We showed heart, character and desire and we can get a result against England that will help us qualify for the next stage.”

Daniel Sturridge scored England’s late winner against Wales but Skrtel knows it is not just about the threat his club-mate poses to Slovakia. “It’s not only Sturridge, not only Kane, not only Vardy – it’s 11 players,” he said. “Sturridge is a great player, there’s no doubt about it. If it’s going to be him or someone else we will do our best to keep a clean sheet.”

Powered by article was written by Jamie Jackson in Paris, for The Guardian on Friday 17th June 2016 22.30 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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