Soccer: Slovakia sharpening knives for All Whites

Slovakia are lacking nothing in confidence ahead of their match against New Zealand.

Straight-talking midfielder Vladimir Weiss, who shares the same name as his father and national team coach, believes the world No 33-ranked side have the firepower to account for the 78th-ranked All Whites at the Royal Bafokeng Sports Palace.

Analysis of New Zealand's 1-0 defeat of Serbia in an international friendly in Austria had been useful in preparation, Weiss said.

"We know what we can expect from them," he told the Fifa website, adding that his team were buoyed by their own 3-0 defeat of Costa Rica in a friendly last week.

"When we play we will build on the work against Costa Rica. I believe that the New Zealand match will turn out as we all want."

Slovakia, who are making their first finals appearance since the "velvet divorce" from their Czech neighbours resulted in the break up of the old Czechoslovakia, have identified the opening match as crucial to their prospects of reaching the last 16.

Coach Vladimir Weiss made it clear he regards the match as one his squad should expect to win and has promised an attacking approach.

"We'll be going for a win and the three points that will get us off to a good start," he said. "New Zealand is a tough opponent but I think we have more quality in our squad."

Slovakia had an impressive qualifying campaign in which their 22-year-old captain and playmaker, Marek Hamsik, who plays for Italian Serie A side Napoli, was the standout player. The New Zealanders will also be wary of VfL Bochum striker Stanislav Sestak and Miroslav Stoch, a tricky winger who spent four years on Chelsea's books.

Slovakia's best-known player, the Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel, is set to play after recovering from an ankle injury he suffered last week, although there is doubt over the match fitness of the centreback, who missed the last three months of the English season with a broken bone in his foot.

SLOVAKIA

Key players:

Martin Skrtel (Liverpool/ENG) - uncompromising centreback
Marek Hamsik (Napoli/ITA) - all-action scoring midfielder tipped for big things
Robert Vittek (Ankaragucu/TUR) - imposing striker with deceptively good touch

* Captain: Marek Hamsik
* Coach: Vladimir Weiss
* World ranking: 34
* Qualifying resultsGroup 3 (winners)

* Northern Ireland 2-1, 2-0
* Slovenia 0-2, 1-2
* San Marino 7-0, 3-1
* Poland 2-1, 1-0
* Czech Republic 2-2, 2-1

- NZPA

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