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Rusty Slovakia will struggle against Republic of Ireland, says Celtic icon Lubo Moravcik

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Lubomir Moravcik in action for Celtic.   (Photo by SNS Group via Getty Images)

Lubomir Moravcik in action for Celtic. (Photo by SNS Group via Getty Images)

SNS Group via Getty Images

Milan Skriniar has been spending time on the bench

Milan Skriniar has been spending time on the bench

PA Archive/PA Images

Lubomir Moravcik in action for Celtic. (Photo by SNS Group via Getty Images)

Even his status as one of his country's greatest sporting figures is not enough to gain admission for Lubo Moravcik into tomorrow's Euro 2020 play-off in Bratislava.

"I won't go to the game tomorrow or even look for a ticket, I have no role with the federation in Slovakia so it would be wrong of me to even try to go," says former Celtic icon Moravcik, capped 38 times by Slovakia after an earlier spell representing Czechoslovakia.

"It's very serious now in Slovakia with coronavirus, we have a lot of new cases and a lot of restrictions. Watching it on TV will be fine for me."

He won 80 caps over a 13-year spell with two nations where the highlight was a good performance at the 1990 World Cup finals, but Moravcik, whose name is still spoken of in hushed tones in the green part of Glasgow from his time with Celtic, never got to play against the Republic of Ireland.

Strong

"I knew Irish football pretty well from having Martin O'Neill as manager but I also know that the national team has been strong for the last 10 years, you qualify for tournaments, you've had a strong team with Ireland for a few years," he says.

Now 55, Moravcik is no longer involved in the game but still has an eye on how his national team shape up, and he's concerned about their Euro 2020 hopes.

Not because Slovakia lack talent - he just fears that the majority of the current side are either too old or out of shape.

"Most of the Irish players play at a high level, they are either in the Premier League or have played a lot there, so Ireland are favourites," he says.

"Slovakia have a problem in the squad, we have good players but they don't play for their clubs: (Milan) Skriniar, (Stanislav) Lobotka, (Robert) Mak, they have all been on the bench for their clubs. It's good that (Marek) Hamsik is here but we don't know how his form is.

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Milan Skriniar has been spending time on the bench

Milan Skriniar has been spending time on the bench

PA Archive/PA Images

Milan Skriniar has been spending time on the bench

"We have too many players who are out of competition, out of form, and we don't have players to replace them, it's a big problem for us as we have a small squad, some good quality but when our best players are missing, or are not match-fit, we are weaker.

"You can't go from the bench at your club into a big play-off for the Euros. I see the Premier League, I know your players play a lot for their clubs and it's an advantage for you," he added.

Moravcik, who retired from international football in 2000 when he was 35, is also worried about their age profile.

"A lot of our players are over 30. Juraj Kucka is a good player, for his club (Parma) and the national team but he's 33, so is Hamsik," Moravcik says.

"Kucka can be strong for 60 or 70 minutes but, at 33, it can be hard to play 90 minutes. He played against Israel in the Nations League last month, he started well but was tired at the end of the game and his quality dropped.

"Hamsik is a puzzle for us, his team in China are bottom of the table, he's only scored one goal since the season started; at his peak he was a great player but we need him sharp tomorrow, we can't look back to how he was seven or eight years ago.

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Marek Hamsik

Marek Hamsik

PA Archive/PA Images

Marek Hamsik

"We have (Albert) Rusnak and (Jan) Gregus coming from America and, again, we don't know their levels.

"Robert Mak is a good player - he was at Man City as a young boy - but he has played just one game this year. He cannot be fresh or fit."

Moravcik is a fan of striker Robert Bozenik (Feyenoord) and midfielder Lukas Haraslin (Sassuolo) but again has fears.

"Haraslin is now with a small club in Italy and we need him to play in a big play-off in the Euros, that's hard," he says.

"We have a lot of determination in the squad, these guys want to win for Slovakia. But determination is not enough."

Football has taken a back seat in his career as after spells in coaching, including home-town club Nitra, he's no longer involved.

"I have different business interests, building houses," Moravcik says.

He retains fond memories of his spell at Celtic (1998-2002) which yielded five major trophies, all under O'Neill.

"Martin was a very clever man, very simple but very clever too. He didn't complicate football, our style with Celtic was basic but effective, very effective," he says.

"It was easy as we had such a good squad, especially up front, it was great for me to play in a side that had people like (John) Hartson and (Henrik) Larsson up front. Larsson was one of the best in Europe. As a midfielder, it was easy to play with Larsson in front of you."

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Henrik Larsson – Celtic’s king of kings (Lynne Cameron/PA)

Henrik Larsson – Celtic’s king of kings (Lynne Cameron/PA)

PA Archive/PA Images

Henrik Larsson – Celtic’s king of kings (Lynne Cameron/PA)

And it sounds as if he wished his national side could have someone like Larsson to open up Ireland tomorrow.

"It's hard to beat a team who are well organised, strong physically. Ireland were always hard to beat, even for the best teams in Europe," he says.

"I'm sorry to say it but I expect Ireland to get through. It's 90 minutes, so anything can happen but I see Ireland as the favourites."

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