Martina Surnovska may have left the pitch in tears, but the Slovakian No6 put in a show-stopping performance in her country’s debut against Venezuela, scoring with two shots and hitting the bar with another. When FIFA's official website FIFA.com asked Branislav Petrovic to name his player of the game, the Slovakia coach said without hesitation: "Martina".
In fact, the first player to trouble gold-medal favourites Venezuela since the start of the tournament is also the smallest girl in the Slovakian squad. Following their 7-0 opening-match rout of Papua New Guinea, the boisterous South Americans picked up where they left off and were two goals up inside 13 minutes thanks to a double from record-setting striker Deyna Castellanos, before Surnovska almost pulled one back on 15 minutes when her dipping long-range effort hit the crossbar. After the clinical Castellanos completed her hat-trick just after the half-hour, Surnovska did open her account a minute before half time when she powered into the penalty box and calmly pulled the trigger.
During the second period Venezuela, who fielded four returnees from the FIFA U-17 Women's World Cup in April this year, tightened their hold over the game and a second strike from Surnovska on 58 minutes was unable to turn the tide of the match, which finished in a convincing 6-2 Vinotinto victory. Nevertheless it was a historic occasion for Slovakia and their marauding midfielder from Slavia Prague, whose brace in her country’s maiden outing in a FIFA women's event earned her a place in the record books.
Beaten but unbowed *"I don’t feel so great," the plucky midfielder told *FIFA.com in the wake of her rollercoaster experience, her eyes still glistening with tears. "We lost the game even though I scored two goals. I hoped that we could win, or that I could have at least have got another goal."
Even when reminded of her historic achievement, Surnovska remained disconsolate and choked back the emotion as she said: "We couldn’t keep a tight enough grip on the opponents’ key players, which enabled them to get on top too easily. That’s why we lost."
Only when the subject turned to her footballing background did the youngster regain her composure. "I started playing aged four because of my older brother’s love of football, and from that point on I just fell in love with the sport. My idol is Cristiano Ronaldo," she added.
Just like her hero, Surnovska has consistently been her team's top scorer despite playing from midfield. "I love the feeling of scoring," the pint-sized dynamo said, finally breaking into a smile. "Every time I get the ball, almost without thinking I charge forward and try to craft a scoring chance. I love shooting."
The most memorable goal in Martina’s prodigious collection came against Azerbaijan during European qualifying. In a four-match preliminary tournament played in April this year, Slovakia kicked off with a resounding 7-2 victory over Romania before coming up against more stubborn opposition in the form of Azerbaijan. Surnovska’s solitary winner on 26 minutes earned the Slovakian girls a narrow 1-0 win and secured their birth as the sole European representatives at the Girls’ Youth Olympic Football Tournament.
The midfield ace remembers the occasion fondly: "I was delighted to score a goal against Azerbaijan in the preliminary tournament. That goal was really crucial and I’m so proud to have helped the team secure a ticket to the Youth Olympics.”
As a young nation that only joined FIFA in 1994, being able to represent Europe at a Youth Olympic Football Tournament is certainly a source of pride. Despite losing heavily on their debut, the Slovakians and their midfield goal-getter Martina Surnovska are itching to make amends and would even welcome a second pop at their last opponents.
"We have to win the next game [against Papua New Guinea]," the tenacious teenager said firmly. "If we can meet Venezuela again, we must go all out to beat them, and we can beat them."