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Euro 2016 profile: Slovakia have skills and scorers from midfield

Slovakia's Miroslav Stoch (L) and Marek Hamsik celebrate after scoring during their 2014 World Cup qualifying football match Slovakia vs Liechtenstein on September 11, 2012 in Bratislava.   AFP PHOTO/ STR        (Photo credit should read -/AFP/GettyImages)

In the Euro 2016 profile on Slovakia, we view England's Group B opposition. Marek Hamsik needs to perform if they are to live up to their odds.

We’re profiling all 24 teams that will be competing in France, so punters will have an expert view as Europe’s finest compete this summer.

This time we focus on Slovakia, a nation making their first Euros appearance since the Velvet Revolution split them peacefully from the Czech Republic.

The Slovaks, a nifty top price of 9/4 with 888Sport to qualiy from Group B, face England, Russia and Wales in their pool.

History at the Euros: This will be Slovakia’s first appearance at the Euros but will be looking to rekindle some of their early qualifying form, winning their first six games. Slovakia finished runners-up to Spain in their qualifying Group C and beat defending Euro champions Spain in the process.

Head coach: As a player, head coach Jan Kozak finished third in the 1980 Euros with Czechoslovakia and has led independent Slovakia to their first European tournament.

At the helm since 2013, former midfielder Kozak has two titles to his name as a manager, both with domestic side Kosice. Sky Bet have Slovakia at 9/2 to reach the quarter-finals on his watch.

Key player: Napoli captain Marek Hamsik will be key to any Slovakian success this summer. The elegant, technically gifted playmaker has seven goals and assists for his club this campaign as they chase down Juventus.

Former Juve man Pavel Nedved said: “Hamsik is my heir. He is the footballer who most resembles me in terms of his characteristics and playing style.”

Hamsik scored the vital goals that secured Slovakia’s spot in the tournament against Luxembourg and will hope he can fire them towards victory again this summer.

Rising star: Table-topping Legia Warsaw’s dribbling maestro Ondrej Duda is a highly-rated prospect plying his trade in Poland.

The skilful attacking midfielder has been compared to Angel Di Maria and has a special relationship with head coach Kozak, as he played under the coach during his Kosice days.

Duda has drawn interest from Arsenal, Tottenham and Inter Milan and has seven caps to his name at 21 years of age. The youngster is likely to be on the move this summer and the Euros are a great stage on which to display his talent.

Wildcard: After a two-year period of international wilderness, Slovakia’s record scorer Robert Vittek came in from the cold in 2014.

Starting his career for local side Slovan Bratislava with an impressive 47 goals in 101 domestic games, the marksman is now back and as lethal as ever.

Vittek, now 34, is averaging a goal every other game and has 12 so far this season for Slovakia’s most successful side. He is set to be a presence in France.

Confirmed Slovakia Euro 2016 fixtures:
All kick-offs are British Summer time (BST)
Saturday, June 11th: Wales v Slovakia (17:00); Stade Bordeaux-Atlantique, Bordeaux, BBC
Wednesday, June 15th: Russia v Slovakia (14:00); Stade Pierre-Mauroy, Lille, BBC
Monday, June 20th: Slovakia v England (20:00); Stade Geoffroy Guichard, Saint-Etienne, ITV​

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