Slovakia boss Jan Kozak has warned England not to expect to sail through the group stage of the Euro 2016 finals as they did in qualification.
The draw for the tournament in France this summer pitched the Slovakians into Group B battle with Roy Hodgson’s men as well as Wales and Russia, and Kozak insists it will be anything but a walk-over despite Saturday evening’s encouraging fightback victory over world champions Germany.
He said: “I expect and I hope that we will be a tough team for any team we play. With regard to England, there is a difference between preparation for a championship and the championship itself.
“Everybody knows what English football means. I expect a very good performance from England because they didn’t lose a point during qualification.
“But still as I said, there is a difference between the championship and qualification.”
Slovakia face the Republic of Ireland in Dublin on Tuesday still waiting for their 100th win after a 0-0 draw with Latvia in their 251st fixture on Friday.
Kozak will use the trip to the Aviva Stadium and a June clash with Northern Ireland on the eve of the tournament to acclimatise his players to the style of football they might expect from England and Wales in France.
He said: “They have a similar style of playing. We also have another match against Northern Ireland in Slovakia because we have Wales also in our group, so we wanted to try playing these teams before the championship.”
Slovakia earned their ticket to the finals by finishing as runners-up behind Spain, who they beat 2-1 in Zilina, in Group C, and while they may be considered the underdogs alongside three so-called bigger nations in France, Kozak is confident they can more than compete.
He will field the same side which played out the stalemate with Latvia in Dublin as, much like opposite number Martin O’Neill, he attempts to asses all possible options before naming his final 23.
Kozak said: “In both matches, I want to check all my players and try to give them as much time as I can in order to get the satisfaction that I have done everything I can for all the players, and that I am sure all of them are ready.
“The Irish team is a very good team – they beat Bosnia-Herzegovina (in the play-offs), who are a good team – so I expect those players will do everything in order to win.”