Slovakia manager Peter Kopun. Laszlo Geczo/INPHO
opposition view

Slovakia manager holds Irish well-wishes as he looks to save his job

Peter Kopúň has also warned of ‘very unique’ long throw specialist Megan Campbell.

SLOVAKIA MANAGER PETER Kopúň refuses to wish Ireland luck in the 2023 World Cup play-offs — as he plots a win in tomorrow’s final group game to save his job.

Victory for Vera Pauw’s side in their final Group A qualifier in Senec this evening [KO 5pm Irish time, live on RTÉ 2] will shorten their route as they look to reach a first-ever major tournament.

The Girls In Green sealed their progression with a nervy 1-0 win over Finland on an historic night in Tallaght Stadium Thursday, with Pauw insisting, ‘We celebrate here, but don’t party,’ afterwards.

But after results going in their favour elsewhere, three points against the Slovaks tomorrow would surely allow for an Ireland party as they would bypass Round One of the convoluted play-off system.

While Kopúň wouldn’t bite on the cliché ‘ruin the party’ line, he did explain that tomorrow could be his last match as manager — “This is not a completely closed deal, but officially my contract will be out after this game,” he said, and asked if he’d like to stay on, added with a smile, “We can talk after this game”.

He was later asked if a win could save his job.

“This is the toughest question so far. This is the difference between you and us, we have chances to make dramatic changes to the story.”

“Honestly, you have already got enough for the play-offs so then you have a chance to qualify for the World Cup and that is something to be proud of,” Kopúň continued. “Even if you don’t qualify, you should still be happy and we can’t spoil a party if you re going to be a play-off.

“I don’t know what the feeling was in Dublin after the 1-1 draw but I think everyone there should be happy with the qualification campaign.”

Asked how Ireland will do in their first World Cup play-offs, he noted: “I don’t like making predictions or put on bets.

“Everything depends on the draw, that is important. I don’t even want to wish you good luck yet because we are rivals tomorrow!”

Kopúň was bullish, stressing that he “will play a team that will allow us to win,” and also warned of ‘very unique’ long throw specialist Megan Campbell.

The Liverpool defender made her long-awaited return to the Irish XI last week after a difficult road with injury.

It was Campbell’s first appearance of the campaign, but Kopúň is well aware of her threat — two goals came off her throw when the sides met in Senec in 2017 and he was assistant manager.

“It’s very hard to defend a throw because you can’t be closer than two metres. She is very unique. When I show videos to coaches at seminars, they are shocked at what she is capable of.”

What about potentially using towels to make the ball slippy? “I can’t respond to that,” he laughed.

Ireland boss Vera Pauw confirmed that Campbell can start again; two games in five days manageable despite her well-documented injury struggles.

“We know what we do. Liverpool have done a great job to get her back on the pitch. The way that we handle her now is to get her fresh again. That’s the only thing. We don’t need to build her condition, we just need to make sure she is ready, fresh, and sharp. That’s what we’ll do.”

Pauw also revealed that the Drogheda native has a “completely different” training regime to the rest of the Ireland group.

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