©INPHO/Donall Farmer Wladimir Weiss (not to be confused with Wladimir Weiss, or Wladimir Weiss)
Euro qualifier: Five things to know about Ireland's opponents
With Ireland’s crucial Euro 2012 qualifier against Slovakia taking place in Dublin on Friday night, we look at the visitors…

The key player

LOOKING LIKE A strange hybrid of Fernando Torres, Butthead and a deck scrub, Hamsik is arguably the most naturally gifted footballer ever to come out of Slovakia. Consistently linked with Chelsea, the 24-year-old has resolutely stuck with Napoli in Serie A – where he has scored 42 goals in 140 appearances – having joined them in 2007 from Brescia.

The attacking midfielder is his country’s captain, taking up the role for the 2010 World Cup, and is closing in on a half century of caps for Wladimir Weiss’ men.

The goal threat

As with Hamsik, striker Robert Vittek started his career with Slovan Bratislava before establishing himself in the Bundesliga with FC Nuremberg. While his club career has been less than stellar since – he had a short spell with Lille before moving on to play in Turkey – Vittek is his country’s top scorer with 23 goals from 78 appearances. His finest hour came at last year’s World Cup, as it was his two goals that knocked Italy out of the competition and sent his country through to the knockout stages.

The manager

Wladimir Weiss is a man of two jobs – he manages not just the Slovakian national side but also Slovan Bratislava, the country’s top club side. The son of a former Czech international called Wladimir Weiss, his own son is the current international winger called Wladimir Weiss.

Having played for Czechoslovakia at the 1990 World Cup in Italy, Weiss Sr is a hero in his home country having led Slovakia to their first ever major tournament in South Africa 2010.

The familiar faces

  • Martin Skrtel is a Liverpool fans’ favourite, a towering defender who played every minute of every Premier League game last season.
  • Left back Marek Cech is currently at Trabzonspor, but spent three underwhelming years with West Brom.
  • Wladimir Weiss Jr is on the books of Manchester City, but spent last season on loan on at Rangers and recently came to a similar agreement with Espanyol.
  • Lubomir Michalik: One of those players you think is much older than he really is (28), Michalik initially impressed at Bolton as a rangy centre-half but soon found himself sold to Leeds, and then on to his current home at Carlisle United.

The tournament history

Slovakia made their major tournament debut when they qualified for the 2010 World Cup in South Africa. They drew their first match against New Zealand before losing to Paraguay 2-0. Just as it looked like a Group Stage exit, they pulled out one of the surprises of the tournament by beating holders Italy 3-2.

Their tournament came to an end with a 2-1 defeat to eventual finalists The Netherlands in the last 16.