Zsolt Pakusza and Jana Vojteková looking for a yard-stick to measure Slovakia against

Slovak coach and defender take the time to sit and talk with us out in Spain

Zsolt Pakusza and Jana Vojteková looking for a yard-stick to measure Slovakia against
Credit: Getty/Team 2 Sportphoto/ullstein bild

After Slovakia’s confidence boosting win over Russia we spoke to coach, Zsolt Pakusza and defender Jana Vojteková about the perilous route to a World Cup and how to motivate themselves against the best as well as talking to Vojteková about playing in Germany.

Confidence boost

Fresh off of a friendly win against 25th ranked Russia, it’s clear to see that Vojteková’s decisive goal has given the team a boost at the start of the year, Pakusza remains glad of the confidence boost,

Definitely, we need this win because of the last results in qualification. It was a very tough opponent.

Drawn in a tough group with reining European Champions, Netherlands as well as Norway, Northern Ireland and the Republic of Ireland, the win over Russia has been a respite for Slovakia,

Pakusza pulls no punches, “Qualification has been hard for us and at this time we thought we’d have more points than we have now. Especially the match against Northern Ireland, we didn’t expect to lose – we knew it would be hard for us but we have some new and young players we’re trying to introduce to the team and maybe prepare for the next qualifying round.

Asked to play against some of the best in the world as well as some improving nations, Slovakia’s first job was to dig in and find their best, something the team has struggled with,

We knew to it would be really hard to qualify for the World Cup so the aim was to earn as many points as possible, to beat the teams below us but to try and do our best to beat those above us to cause surprises.

When it comes to finding motivation both Vojteková and Pakusza use the opposition to drive them, looking to measure themselves against their opponents,

The biggest motivation is we can play against a top team like the Netherlands and compare ourselves against them.” The defender continues, “Just playing against top teams is a motivation as before we didn’t have a chance to play so many tough games as now.”

Her coach agreed, “The aim is play with the best in the world to gain more experience and improve our position.

Despite the need for a translator to facilitate the interview the answer to weather there was much interest in international or domestic women’s football in Slovakia was easy to understand with out the translation as both said, “nikto” in unison.

Grassroots

Having been away from Slovakia since her first move abroad in 2013, the defender admits she’s not too in touch with how girls in Slovakia are, whether or not football is big interest but divulges that the SFZ (Slovenský futbalový zväz) is doing what they can to get more interested back home,

“It’s hard to say because I live in Germany but our football association is working on more projects for young players with the grassroots so the interest is getting bigger and bigger,” she paused to clarify, “It’s step by step, just a little but there are some very nice projects and we think the interest more than it used to be be.”

Pakusza intoned, “There is also the motivation… with players like Jana and Dominika Škorvánková (the Slovak captain who plays for Bayern Munich) young girls can see them as idols and that they can go somewhere and be professional footballers.”

On quantifying “success” the pair are in agreement that the biggest sign would be if they qualified for a major tournament, the team still searching for consistency,

The defender explained, “For us, it’s the biggest success is if we qualify and we wouldn’t have waves but would be consistent.”

Pakusza went on to expand on how all associations want silverware, “The first step is to qualify but within associations – for generally for all national teams – the dream is to win some kind of tournament in any category; men, women, youth…

For the coach, just getting to play against some of the top teams in Europe is a luxury the team weren’t afforded a few years ago,

For example five years ago we didn’t play any friendlies in March so together with Croatian football federation we initiated the Istria Cup and we’ve had some good results there but the opponents are not that good. For the first time this year we’ll be playing at the Cyprus Cup and that’s also motivation as it’s very important for us to go to these tournaments.” 

Enjoying better results when the pressure is off in the qualifiers, yesterday’s goalscorer admits she doesn’t see much difference between how she approaches the different matches,

“I don’t really see changes between the qualifiers and friendlies because you step on the pitch and want to play the best you can – it’s still about points whether it’s qualifiers or friendlies because we can earn ranking points in the friendlies, it all matters.

Though her coach sees it differently,

The difference is the qualifiers are harder and tougher and you can not model them on friendly matches, it’s really tougher in your head. When you see the results from the qualifiers and prepare with the friendlies, you see more success in friendlies but you can see the pressure is on the qualifiers and we’re trying to model the pressure for the tougher matches.

 

A German adventure

One of the more notable names in the Slovak squad, Vojteková first left her home country in pursuit of a tougher league, first with Neulengbach in the ÖFB-Frauenliga before moving on to current club, SC Sand. But what was it that prompted the move from Slovan Bratislava for the defender?

“The first step was finishing school in Slovakia, I wanted to do that before anything else but I knew the football at home wasn’t enough. I could see from the national team that I could be better so I went to Austria but even there I could see that I could still go to a better club, a better league so that when the Sand thing happened. It helped that I speak German well and Mária Korenčiová was already at Sand when I moved and Dominika Škorvánková joined at the same time.”

Those familiar with the DFB-Pokal runners-up will know that the team hails from the small town of Willstätt in Baden-Württemberg, and the side has long-since boasted an eclectic group of players,

The city is small and it’s better for me and it helps that there’s many players from abroad so they’re all struggling/fighting together. There aren’t many German players there so we all there for each other with this situation and we feel… cosy.

Upheavals off of the pitch have left the team wanting at points, problems with holding onto a coach enough to see the team slip down the FBL table a little but not stop the side from reaching successive cup finals. The team sure to give Sascha Glass time to adjust to his new charge,

We have a good team, team spirit so we all have each other and we’re trying to give a chance to the new coach together to help him.

Well settled at Sand and into her third season with the club, the defender is right where she wants to be, in a competitive league where no one is unbeatable,

The Frauen-Bundesliga is the top league in Europe – other leagues, like in England… they’re taking steps but even if I was playing with the best team or the lowest ranked team in Germany, it is open, the league isn’t about two teams. So even if you’re at the bottom and you’re playing the top team with the most points, you know you always have a chance of beating them.”