Wed, Oct 14, 2009 - Page 19 News List

Slovakia looking to avoid another World Cup slip-up

AP , WARSAW

Slovakia get another chance to secure a World Cup place when they play Poland today after blowing their first shot at qualifying for next year’s tournament.

Slovakia needed just a point on Saturday at home against Slovenia to advance but lost 2-0 and now need an away victory in Chorzow to win Group 3.

“We have two days to get our act back together and we will celebrate qualification to the finals in Chorzow on Wednesday,” Slovakia captain Robert Vittek said.

Slovakia lead the group with 19 points. Second-place Slovenia, who play San Marino in their last qualifier, are two points behind.

Victory would secure Slovakia’s first World Cup appearance since the republic was founded on Jan. 1, 1993.

Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss’ greatest concern against Poland is his depleted defense. Regular starters Martin Skrtel, Jan Durica and Radoslav Zabavnik picked up yellow cards against Slovenia and must now sit out today’s match. Midfielder Miroslav Stoch will also be out for the same reason.

Weiss has called on sweeper Lubomir Michalik, who plays for Leeds, to strengthen his team’s patchwork defense.

Poland have only pride to play for after earning just one point from their last three qualifiers and falling to second from bottom of the group, despite having made a respectable start to their qualifying campaign.

The Polish federation fired coach Leo Beenhakker following a 3-0 loss to Slovenia last month, and replaced him with interim manager Stefan Majewski.

Majewski called up a young squad for the final two qualifiers, only to see his team thoroughly outplayed in a 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic on Saturday.

Despite their problems, Poland remain a tricky opponent for Slovakia.

Slovenia have a much easier task today against San Marino — a team that has yet to earn a point in nine qualifying matches.

A Slovenia win, combined with a Slovakia draw against Poland, would put Slovenia through on goal difference.

The Czech Republic are third in the group with 15 points and only have a mathematical chance of a playoff spot if they beat Northern Ireland on Wednesday and Slovenia draw or lose.

Since becoming a member of FIFA in 1988, San Marino have never won a match, losing all but two of their World Cup qualifying matches.

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