Slovakia coach Jan Kozak believes that Marek Hamsik, the orchestrator of his side’s 2-1 victory over Russia at Euro 2016, has become such an outstanding player that he has outgrown his Italian club Napoli.
Man of the match Hamsik, who made one goal and scored the other in the first half, was now ready to join one of Europe’s elite teams after the tournament, Kozak said on Wednesday following Slovakia’s landmark win.
Hamsik played a sublime ball off his left foot for Vladimir Weiss to open the scoring, and then curled home a beautiful strike with his right 12 minutes later as Slovakia claimed all three points.
“Marek Hamsik has matured as a person and as a player at Napoli,” Kozak said when asked if the 28-year-old could be one of the players of the tournament.
“(But) Napoli has become too small (for him). I think he’s ready to play for a really big club.”
Hamsik was a threat throughout, using his clever passing and excellent close control to buy time for a more defensively-minded Slovak side that made three changes from the one that lost their opening game to Wales.
Forced to withstand a late onslaught after Denis Glushakov reduced the deficit with a header ten minutes before time, Slovakia held on to record their first victory at a European Championship finals.
“The Russians were really strong on the ball,” Hamsik told reporters.
“They had more possession and were good on the counter but they left us more space. In the second half, we were able to sit deep and hold on for a great result.”
With rivals England and Wales set to meet in Lens on Thursday, the win puts Slovakia top of the group for the time being.
“We’re not too worried about how it turns out between England and Wales,” said Hamsik, whose side will face England in their final group game in Saint-Etienne on Monday, while Russia face Wales in Toulouse.
“England are the favourites and I’m sure that it will be tougher than the two games we’ve played,” he added.