Slovakia achieved an identical record to ourselves in the last international break, winning a play-off semi final on penalties (we don’t need to tell you who it was against) before losing both of their following Nations League games against Scotland and Israel. As a result of Slovakia’s poor Nations League form, manager Pavel Hapal was sacked five days after their play-off semi-final win. The Slovaks have acted promptly to name Stefan Tarkovic as Interim Manager for the play-off final in Belfast on 12th November. Tarkovic is no stranger to the Slovakian national team set-up having enjoyed five years as an assistant to Jan Kozak between 2013 and 2018, during which Slovakia qualified for their first ever European Championships as an independent nation. Prior to this, Tarkovic managed various Slovakian club sides.

Northern Ireland v Slovakia match programme 2009
Last time at home against Slovakia… when they extinguished our hopes of qualifying for World Cup 2010

It is unlikely that Tarkovic is going to make large-scale changes to the Slovakia squad. We take a look at some of the squad which has lost all four of their Nations League games this campaign, but who still represent a stern test for Baraclough’s men with a place at the European Championships at stake.

Marek RODAK
Age: 23
Club: Fulham
Caps: 2
Position: Goalkeeper
FACT: Has spent his full senior career in England, including spells at Accrington Stanley and Rotherham United
Peter PEKARIK
Age: 34
Club: Hertha Berlin
Caps/Goals: 94/2
Position: Right Back
FACT: Has made over 150 appearances for Hertha Berlin
Denis VAVRO
Age: 24
Club: Lazio
Caps/Goals: 11/1
Position: Centre Back
FACT: Made his senior debut in the Slovakian Superliga for Zilina at the age of 17
Slovakia v Northern Ireland programme 2008
The programme from the away game
Martin VALIJENT
Age: 24
Club: Mallorca
Caps/Goals: 8/0
Position: Centre Back
FACT: Made his senior debut in Italy’s Serie B at the age of 17 and has since made over 220 club appearances across five clubs
Robert MAZAN
Age: 26
Club: Mlada Boleslav
Caps/Goals: 10/0
Position: Left Back
FACT: Has played for eight clubs across Slovakia, Poland, Spain, Italy and the Czech Republic
Juraj KUCKA
Age: 33
Club: Parma
Caps/Goals: 76/9
Position: Central Midfielder
FACT: Scored twice in both the Euro 2016 and 2020 qualifiers
Patrik HROSOVSKY
Age: 28
Club: Genk
Caps/Goals: 28/0
Position: Central Midfielder
FACT: Began his senior career by making 150 appearances for Viktoria Plzen in the Czech Republic
Marek HAMSIK
Age: 33
Club: Dalian Professional
Caps/Goals: 123/26
Position: Attacking Midfielder
FACT: All-time appearance holder for both Slovakia (123) and Napoli (520)
Albert RUSNAK
Age: 26
Club: Real Salt Lake
Caps/Goals: 27/5
Position: Right Midfielder
FACT: Began his senior career in England with Manchester City, enjoying brief loan spells at Oldham and Birmingham
Ondrej DUDA
Age: 25
Club: FC Koln
Caps/Goals: 40/5
Position: Striker
FACT: He made 10 appearances for Norwich City, on loan from Hertha Berlin, earlier this year
Jaroslav MIHALIK
Age: 26
Club: Lechia Gdansk (loan)
Caps/Goals: 8/1
Position: Left Midfielder
FACT: His only international goal came against Jordan in a 2019 friendly

A mixture of inexperience and experience for the Slovaks, much like ourselves. The battle of Hamsik v Davis – both captains and record appearance holders for their nations – will be pivotal on the night.

Watch out for our match preview coming soon.