Slovakia hope to produce a repeat performance of their shock group victory over Italy when they clash with the Netherlands in a FIFA World Cup™ Round of 16 match on Monday.
The unfancied Slovaks stunned the defending champions 3-2 to finish as group runners-up and secure a second-round showdown with the Dutch, finalists in 1974 and 1978. Slovak coach Vladimir Weiss said the match against the Dutch was a "career-topping game for both me as coach and all the players".
"What we've learnt since we started the World Cup is that everything's possible, but that's an old cliche," said Weiss, who played for Czechoslovakia in the 1990 FIFA World Cup and went on to add 12 Slovak caps to his 19 Czechoslovakian appearances.
"What we have shown is that we can play football against very strong teams. Of course we came here to fight for something sensational for us. We hope it'll be a beautiful game for us tomorrow. If we want to play well against the Netherlands, we'll have to repeat our performance against Italy, for whom we have big respect."
Weiss, who hinted he might recall his son Vladimir Jr to the starting line-up, said that the Dutch would pose very different problems compared to the Italians, who played a relatively open game in search of goals.
What we have shown is that we can play football against very strong teams.
"The Netherlands play differently from Italy, with a game based on multiple passes and creating surprises, that's their quality," Weiss said, highlighting their star winger Arjen Robben as a dangerman even though he has played just 20 minutes during this World Cup as he recovers from a hamstring injury. "They play differently with or without Robben, who's a top, world-class player -- they have five or six of them. But we also have some top players who managed to beat Italy."
Weiss refused to call his team's run a "miracle". "I don't see it as a miracle. We didn't start well against New Zealand but the players showed a good mentality to drag it back. The match against Paraguay just wasn't our game," he said of the opening group matches, drawn 1-1 and lost 2-0 respectively.
"In the Italy game, we and they were under a lot of pressure because just one team was going to be happy at the end. I expect a similar atmosphere tomorrow in what is a decisive match. Everything's possible and we'll have to show something more of a performance."
After failing to find the net in nine qualifying games, Slovak striker Robert Vittek now finds himself among the big boys of the world's goal scorers. "I'm very happy to be among the top scorers especially after all the criticism I got, but I'm not thinking too much about it," said Vittek, who plays for Turkish club Ankaragucu.
"It's a dream to be playing at the World Cup, in a stadium like the one in Durban against opponents like the Netherlands. For us it is a fantastic, new experience. We're not thinking about the result, we're just focusing on the match, as we did against Italy."
But he added: "The Dutch are very different from Italy, but we're looking forward to the game. There's a lot more pressure on the Dutch. They have to win while we just turn up and nothing's expected of us."