Slovaks greet golden moment with silence

JOHANNESBURG - Stony faces and silence were the unusual reactions of Slovakia's players after stunning Italy 3-2 to reach the knockout stages of the World Cup and send the holders home on Thursday.

Having caused a shock on the pitch, they pulled off another off it when they filed past reporters with barely a flicker of emotion on their faces and refused to talk about the tournament debutants' biggest footballing moment.

Relations between the team and media have soured in South Africa with players annoyed over criticism of their first two performances and Thursday's silence marked a new low.

Slovak FA president Frantisek Laurinec was less than impressed with news the players had traipsed in single file behind captain Marek Hamsik and had mostly avoided eye contact.

"I will wish (coach) Mr (Vladimir) Weiss and the players to normalise relations," Laurinec told reporters when asked what he would do before the next match.

"Football is our players, our coaches, the spectators, the supporters and also the media."

Slovakia drew their first Group F match with New Zealand, conceding a last-minute equaliser, and lost 2-0 to Paraguay, finishing second behind the South Americans to reach the last 16 on their first appearance as an independent nation.

Several minutes after the players had left, team officials in pinstripe suits walked past, stopping to take photographs as they enjoyed their rare moment in the limelight.

Team doctor Villam Fischer offered a medical explanation for the players' behaviour.

"I'm a cardio surgeon, I know what shock is - they are in shock. This win against Italy is a shock for our players," he told Reuters with a smile.

Team spokeswoman Marianna Cizmarova was surprised to hear the players had not spoken. She denied they had been told by coach Weiss not to talk, adding: "They are just excited because they won."

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