Slovakia can now see the second round of Euro 2016 after beating Russia 2-1 in their Group B game Wednesday, goalscorer Marek Hamsik said.
“Of course we are very happy with our first win at a European Championship,” said man of the match Hamsik, who set up the opener for Vladimir Weiss and scored a stunning goal for Slovakia’s second at the Stade Pierre Mauroy.
“I am very proud and perhaps this has opened up the gates to the second round -- we’ll see. I did well and am very proud that I managed to score such a goal -- it was brilliant.”
“Russia were really strong on the ball. They had more possession and in the second half we were sitting deep and defending all the time.”
“Luckily we managed to hold on to the result and we are very happy.”
Hamsik was the instigator with a superb pass on his left foot to set up Vladimir Weiss for the opener in the 32nd minute. He then scored a brilliant second with his right foot on the stroke of half-time before Denis Glushakov pulled one back in vain late on for Russia.
“Napoli has become too small for him. I think he is ready to play for a really big club,” declared Slovakia coach Jan Kozak.
“He has been performing very well for Slovakia and is one of the leaders of the team together with Martin Skrtel. His performance today was really superb.”
Hamsik’s decisive goal followed a quickly-taken corner by Weiss. With the Russian defence slow to react, the former Brescia playmaker, who has been in Italy since the age of 17, collected the ball and curled a stunning shot in off the far post.
It was arguably the best goal yet at the tournament and it left Russia with too much to do, even if substitute Glushakov’s late strike set up a grandstand finale.
Slovakia’s first win in the competition as an independent nation, kick started Slovakia’s Euro 2016 campaign after they opened Group B with a 2-1 loss to Wales in Bordeaux.
Group rivals England meet Wales in Lens on Thursday before Slovakia face Roy Hodgson’s men in their last group game.