Slovakia head to their first World Cup - they previously competed as part of Czechoslovakia - hoping to follow in the footsteps of Senegal, North Korea and the Republic of Ireland, all of whom enjoyed memorable debuts. The division of Czechoslovakia in 1993 is often referred to as 'the velvet divorce' but in football terms Slovakia initially came out second best. However, the balance of power now appears to be shifting - they qualified for South Africa ahead of the Czechs, and with several youngsters of real promise in the squad, the future looks bright.
The Slovaks are captained by Napoli midfielder Marek Hamsik, the outstanding player in the side by a distance. Fit-again Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel provides steel at the back, while new Everton keeper Jan Mucha was inspired in qualifying, and with New Zealand and Paraguay in their group, the knockout stages are a possibility.
Aim: Despite the lack of household names, a kind draw means fans are hopeful of reaching the last 16.
THREE KEY PLAYERS
JAN MUCHA Slovakia's first-choice keeper has signed a pre-contract agreement with Everton. He intends to hit the ground running on Merseyside - he has been listening to Beatles albums to improve his English.
MAREK HAMSIK The side's star player and skipper, Hamsik - a skilful, attacking playmaker - is also one of the most sought-after midfielders in Europe, thanks largely to an excellent goalscoring record.
MIROSLAV STOCH The winger has yet to start a game for Chelsea but scored 10 league goals on loan at FC Twente this season, helping the Dutch side win the Eredivisie title.
VLADIMIR WEISS The youngest coach at the World Cup at 45, Weiss built his reputation with Artmedia, who beat Gordon Strachan's Celtic 5-0 in a Champions League qualifier in 2005. He was appointed in 2008.
ADOPT THEM BECAUSE...
Everyone remembers their first time and South Africa will be special for the tournament debutants.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Slovakia's World Cup qualifying highlights
W 2-1 N Ireland (H) L 2-1 Slovenia (A) W 3-1 San Marino (A) W 2-1 Poland (H) W 2-1 Czech Rep (A) W 7-0 San Marino (H) D 2-2 Czech Rep (H) W 2-0 N Ireland (A) L 2-0 Slovenia (H) W 1-0 Poland (A) Finished top of group
WORLD CUP BEST
Slovakia will make their first World Cup appearance since becoming an independent nation in 1993. They have previously competed as part of Czechoslovakia, reaching World Cup finals in 1934 and 1962.
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