When your national press labels your progression from group stage to knock-out phase of the FIFA World Cup™ as a "miracle", it sums up the notion of a being a rank outsider in world football.

Slovakia go into Monday's second-round game against the Netherlands as underdogs, but on a run of seven wins and unbeaten in 22 games, as well as having disposed of defending world champions Italy, 3-2 in their final group game to make sure of their qualification.

"We didn't have anything to lose because no one expected us to beat Italy, they had all the pressure," said midfielder Miroslav Stoch, who plays for Turkish giants Fenerbahce. "It will be similar against the Dutch because they have to win, they are expected to, and the pressure will be on them. Whereas we again will have nothing to lose. Nobody expected us to go through then and no one expects us to now."

We again will have nothing to lose. Nobody expected us to go through then and no one expects us to now.

Miroslav Stoch, Slovakia midfielder

They now come up against a Dutch side brimming with talent and household names such as Arjen Robben, Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie, Mark van Bommel and Dirk Kuyt.

"The Dutch are a fantastic team," said Slovakia coach Vladimir Weiss. "They have a lot of players who play in the best club teams in the world, and with good coaches. They are one of the favourites in the tournament but you never know. It is like when we played against Italy, we have a good spirit and we must impress." He added: "The favourites are the Dutch, like the Italians were, but you never know. We'll see."

Crucial to Slovakia's play is 22-year-old captain Marek Hamsik, who moved to Serie A in 2004 and this season scored 12 goals for Napoli as they finished sixth to qualify for next season's Europa League. "He's a world-class player," said Weiss. "He's always put in great performances wherever I've positioned him, and it's for all those reasons that I decided to make him captain."

Hamsik set up Robert Vittek for his two goals against Italy, a game in which Stoch never stopped harrying the Azzurri defence, while holding duo Jurak Kucka and Zdenko Strba stifled the Italian attack, and in-form goalkeeper Jan Mucha made a series of good saves.

Having failed to score in nine games during qualifying for the World Cup, Vittek has now hit three in three games in South Africa to jointly-lead the scoring charts. "The Dutch are clear favourites but we will try to give them a hard time," he said. "As newcomers we have nothing to lose."

Attacking midfielder Erik Jendrisek added: "We showed (against Italy) that we also know how to play attacking football. "Italy were undoubtedly surprised by how we performed and what we were able to do. The difference between this match and our last two games was that as well as trying to play football, this time we did it with heart."