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Saturday, June 26, 2010
Slovakia look to move on

Andrew Warshaw

Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss has insisted his players have moved on after they snubbed the Slovakian media in the wake of their amazing 3-2 win over Italy which booked a second-round meeting with Netherlands.

Weiss and his team had come in for criticism following their first two performances - a draw with New Zealand and a loss to Paraguay. That led to a boycott of the national press when the famous victory over Italy sent them through as runners-up in Group F.

But with that controversy behind them, Slovakia now feel that the focus is on causing another upset against another of the game's traditional powerhouses.

"It was not easy for us before the Italy match," Weiss said. "We were under intense pressure from our fans and media. I hope it will change the minds of the people, especially the Slovakian media.

"It was a great day in the history of our nation ... for the players, coaches, and fans. Before the World Cup, it was just a dream - now it's a reality. I'm very proud of my team. To win was one thing, but to score three goals against Italy was fantastic. They are a big team and they defend so well. It's a nice moment in our careers."

For Miroslav Stoch, on loan from Chelsea at Dutch champions FC Twente last season and now en route to Fenerbahce, it was a particularly rewarding experience. The defender was one of his country's bravest, most committed warriors against the Italians and feels no pressure as he prepares for Holland in the second round. "They will be the ones under pressure, just like Italy," said Stoch. "What we have achieved is huge for the people back home."

Like his coach, Stoch can't quite understand the scale of the adverse reaction that accompanied their first two setbacks. "We didn't talk to our media after the Italy game because of all the criticism," he said. "If they don't show respect for us, we do the same. I really don't know why some of the things were written. This after all was our first World Cup."

Well the second in a way for Weiss. He played in the 1990 finals for Czechoslovakia in the days before partition. "That was totally different, it was a country of 10 million," he explained. "We are half the size and it makes you very emotional. Hopefully the press will lay off us now. What happened against Italy was an historic day. And it's not over yet."

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