Unknown quantity Slovakia will be hoping to create their own history in France

The Eastern European side will be hoping for a repeat of their 2010 World Cup campaign

Unknown quantity Slovakia will be hoping to create their own history in France
Slovakia's finest moment in world football came six years ago against Italy (photo: Getty Images)

Identified by some fans and pundits as a dark horse to qualify from a Euro 2016 group that includes England, Wales and Russia, Slovakia are a bit of an unknown quantity in major football competitions as they prepare for just their second experience at the height of the world game.

The spirit of South Africa

After gaining independence from Czechoslovakia in 1993, Slovakia have taken part in qualification for every major footballing competition since then, yet have only qualified once prior to this summer's European Championships. Their finest moment came back in 2010 when they enjoyed a surprisingly successful World Cup campaign in South Africa.

Their tournament looked set to end early after a 1-1 draw against New Zealand and 2-0 defeat to Paraguay, before arguably the greatest performance of their history was compiled in a 3-2 victory over Italy. A double by Robert Vittek took his country through to the last sixteen stage where they met the Netherlands.

A fourth of the tournament for Vittek took him to the top of the goalscoring charts for the competition, but it was not quite enough to see Slovakia beat the eventual runners-up, as the Dutch ran out 2-1 winners following goals from Arjen Robben and Wesley Sneijder.

Surprise qualifiers in 2016

Slovakia defeated Spain during qualification (photo: Getty Images)
Slovakia defeated Spain during qualification (photo: Getty Images)

Since then, Slovakia have gone off the radar of world football until this season. An incredible qualification campaign saw them pick up surprise victories against Ukraine and Spain in a group that also included Belarus, Macedonia and Luxembourg. Such a good run of form saw them comfortably finish second in the group behind reigning European champions Spain, registering seven victories from their ten qualifying fixtures.

With Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel and Napoli playmaker Marek Hamsik amongst their household names, Slovakia will be hoping to follow in the footsteps of the 2010 World Cup squad as they attempt to overcome an open group in France this summer. England and Wales will have to be ready for the challenge in just a few weeks time.