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Kozak admits relief at end of stalemate with England

Slovakia manager Jan Kozak said his team suffered in the Group B match against England. Reuters/Michaela Rehle

Slovakia coach Jan Kozak singled out goalkeeper Matus Kozacik for his superhero performance on Monday night to keep England at bay during their Group B encounter in St Etienne.


The 32-year-old foiled England stiker Jamie Vardy midway through the first-half after the Leicester City attacker outsprinted Martin Skrtel to shoot towards the bottom right hand corner. Kozacik, playing in his 19th international, got down to save the strike. During a busy first-half he also reacted sharply to turn away Adam Lallana’s goalbound effort and Nathaniel Clyne’s angled drive.

When he was eventually beaten by second-half substitute Dele Alli, Skrtel cleared off the line.

"It was a great performance from Matus," said Kozak. “He is a very hard working keeper. He has been performing like this for a long time.”

Kozacik received the man-of-the-match award for his role in the 0-0 draw which leaves Slovakia on four points after three games. “I’m pleased for him," added Kozak. "He has been playing well in all the matches."

A stalemate was the target, conceded Kozak who acknowledged that his players were tiring during the final 20 mintues of the game.

“We were expecting a lot of pressure because England are a quality team and they are strong.”

He added: “I breathed a sigh of relief at the final whistle. I did the maths before the championships. I thought we could beat Wales and get a point from our match with either England or Russia. As it happened, we lost to Wales and beat Russia, so a point from the game with England tallies with the calculations.”

Slovakia must wait until Wednesday night to discover if they feature among the four best third-placed teams who will advance to the last 16.

“To be honest, it’s not really our style of play to defend so deeply," said Kozak. "I brought on a few players towards the end to cope with the set pieces that England were getting.

"We tried to attack but the quality of the opposition was so strong. We couldn’t get the ball out of our half.”