May 17, 2016

    Underdogs Slovakia won't turn tail, cower


    WITH 5.4 million people, Slovakia might be a small country but they do not surrender to greatness when it comes to football.

    Early in their European Championship qualification campaign, they stunned Spain with a 2-1 home win in October 2014 as they cruised to a first-ever Euro appearance.

    At their only major tournament so far, the 2010 World Cup in South Africa, the Slovaks overpowered Italy 3-2 to clinch a spot in the last-16.

    After the peaceful split of former Czechoslovakia into the Czech Republic and Slovakia in 1993, Slovakia's independent football team took time to find the limelight.

    While the Czech Republic have not missed a single European championship since 1996, winning silver in that year and bronze in 2004, Slovakia will be at the Euro for the first time ever this year.

    The Slovak team boast plenty of talent plying their trade in Europe's top leagues. Captain Martin Skrtel is playing his eighth season with Liverpool and playmaker Marek Hamsik is indispensable for Serie A title contenders Naples.

    Slovakia's government and many of its people may not be too keen on migrants but football fans could make an exception.

    Karim Abdul-Jabbar Guede was born in Hamburg, Germany to a French father and Togolese mother and is ready to play for Slovakia, if called up.

    He gained citizenship in 2011 when he played for Slovan Bratislava.

    The 31-year-old now plays for SC Freiburg in the Bundesliga second division and is in the broader Slovakia squad.