A talismanic figure for Spartak Trnava, the only club he has ever played for since coming through their youth system in 2002 and one he now captains, Kamil Kopunek fulfils a robust and reliable back-up role within Slovakia’s international squad.
The defensive midfielder, who received his first cap in a 2-1 friendly win over France in 2006, has always performed well for his country when called upon, which has been an infrequent occurrence over the years. He can, however, fall back on the not insignificant consolation of having never played in a losing team for Slovakia. While his first four international appearances came in non-competitive encounters, his last outing, a 2-0 win away to Northern Ireland in 2009, helped Slovakia to put one foot on a plane to South Africa. It also helped Kopunek to solidify his place in the national coach’s plans.
The road has been long and full of pitfalls for Kopunek, a formerly unpredictable character who did not always enjoy unanimous backing from fans and management in the early stages of his career. With good reason at times, as he demonstrated in the last-16 match at the 2003 FIFA U-20 World Cup in the UAE. Against a Brazil side that included Dani Alves and Adriano, he received a futile last-minute red card, expediting Slovakia’s elimination from the competition in extra-time.
But the Trnava midfield man gradually settled down, matured and progressed, turning into the disciplined, tough-tackling forager that his youthful talent had foretold, and therefore making him a logical inclusion in Slovakia’s 23-man FIFA World Cup squad.