Unbeaten in their 2016 European qualifying group and at an all-time high in the FIFA World Rankings, Slovakia are very much a team in the ascendancy right now.

With an average squad age of 28 we could see a much-changed Slovakia side once their first Group F game against Scotland rolls around next year. Manager Jan Kozak has used experience to his advantage but will be looking to bring through younger players such as Robert Mak and Ondrej Duda for the 2018 campaign.

One of nine UEFA teams to have never faced Scotland in a competitive fixture (as an independent state), Slovakia will be aiming to make first impressions count when they welcome Gordon Strachan’s side to the country in October 2016.

FIFA Ranking
As of July 2015: 15
Highest: 15 – July 2015
Lowest: 150 – December 1993

Home Ground
Rotation system:
Stadion pod Dubnom, Zilina
Stadion Pasienky, Bratislava
Stadion Antona Malatinskeho, Trnava

Slovakia’s first game after gaining independence from Czechoslovakia was a 1-0 win against the United Arab Emirates in 1994.  From then until 2010, the Slovakian team slowly made their way up the FIFA Rankings without qualifying for a major finals (a 6-1 aggregate defeat to Spain in the play-offs for World Cup 2006 was the closest they came).

A strong showing in their 2010 World Cup qualification group saw the country secure its first appearance at a major tournament. After failing to win their first two games in South Africa, Slovakia advanced to the knock-out stages thanks to a shock 3-2 win over the holders Italy. They were defeated 2-1 at the last-16 stage by eventual finalists the Netherlands.

Slovakia might not have long to wait for another finals appearance however, following their blistering start to Euro 2016 qualification. They currently sit top of Group C having won all six of their games, including a 2-1 win over Spain. They are assured at least a play-off place.

Star Player
Marek Hamsik
At 28-years old, the Napoli midfielder has already had a career most players in their mid-30s would be proud of. Hamsik is Slovakia’s third highest ever goalscorer (15 goals in 78 games), has won two Coppa Italias and was voted Slovak footballer of the year in 2009, 2010, 2013 and 2014. Since signing for Napoli in 2007 he has scored 90 goals in 357 games for the Serie A side. Most comfortable playing as a left sided attacking midfielder for the national team, Hamsik became the first man to captain his country at a World Cup finals in 2010.

Scotland have never played Slovakia

Scottish Link
The first Slovakian to make an impact on the Scottish game was former national team manager Dr Josef Venglos, who spent a year as Celtic manager in 1998. Venglos is best remember in the East End of Glasgow as the man who brought Lubomir Moravcik, his fellow Slovak, to the club. Despite being 33 when he signed, ‘Lubo’ went on to make 94 appearances for Celtic during a hugely successful spell in which he won five trophies.

Other Slovakians to have played in Scotland include current internationalist Vladimir Weiss – who won the Premier League and League Cup whilst on loan at Ranger in 2010 – and Ross County’s Filip Kiss, who has eight caps for the national team.