Facts & figures: Slovakia

Factbox on World Cup qualifiers Slovakia: World Cup record:

Previous appearances in finals: none as independent nation (8 as part of former Czechoslovakia; finalists in 1934 and 1962, quarter-finalists in 1990).

Coach: Vladimir Weiss, former Czechoslovakia international. Won the Slovakian league title with MFK Petrzalka in 2005 and steered them to the Champions League group stage the same year. Took over as Slovakia coach in 2008 after a year at Russian side Saturn Ramenskoye and another brief spell with MFK. Son of former Slovakian footballer Vladimir Weiss and has a namesake son who plays for Manchester City.

Key players:

Stanislav Sestak (Vfl Bochum). Age: 26. Forward

The team's top scorer in qualifying with six goals, crucially two of them in the dying minutes of a comeback 2-1 home win over Poland. A good finisher who has netted 24 goals in 66 games for Bochum since he joined the Bundesliga team in 2007 from Slovakian side Zilina, where he won a league title and scored 49 goals in 99 appearances.

Marek Hamsik (Napoli). Age: 22. Midfielder

A versatile, high-scoring midfielder who made an immediate impact at Serie A side Napoli after joining them in June 2008 from fellow Italians Brescia, where he scored 10 goals in 40 matches in the second division in the 2006-07 season. Has scored eight goals in 29 appearances for his country, two of them in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.

FIFA world ranking November 2009: 34

How they qualified: Slovakia sealed an automatic berth in next year's finals with a 1-0 win in Poland in their final group match, on a snow-covered pitch after an early own goal by the hosts. They had an impressive campaign, ending with top place in European Group Three, and enjoyed an emotional 2-1 win at former compatriots Czech Republic before suffering a temporary setback with a 2-0 home defeat to fellow qualifiers Slovenia in their penultimate game.

Prospects: Slovakia are capable of giving most better-ranked teams in the finals a tough time but advancing past the group stage may be a tall order, especially if any of their key players are injured or suspended.