Stanislav Lobotka ruled out of Slovakia’s playoff clash with Ireland

Stanislav Lobotka ofSSC Napoli during the Serie A match between Parma Calcio and SSC Napoli at Stadio Ennio Tardini on September 20, 2020 in Parma, Italy.

Napoli midfielder Stanislav Lobotka is out of Slovakia’s Euro 2020 playoff semi-final against Ireland after his club was hit by coronavirus.

The 25-year-old and his team-mates were placed in quarantine over the weekend after players Piotr Zielinskiand Elif Elmas and staff member Giandomenico Costi tested positive for Covid-19.

National boss Pavel Hapal had hoped Lobotka would be allowed to join up with the Slovakia squad ahead of Thursday night’s showdown in Bratislava, but has now had to admit defeat despite three negative tests.

Hapal told a press conference on Wednesday afternoon: “We did our best, but then the Italian club stopped communicating. Probably not only Napoli decided, but also someone from hygiene.

“This is strange because the Juventus players were able to travel and join their national teams. The difference is probably in the region and in the decision of the right person, but I think the rule should be the same.

“Stano has been tested three times with a negative result, but we must do everything we can to replace him.”

Hapal had already called up Fatih Karagumruk’s Erik Saba as cover for Lobotka, but the absence of a man who would have formed a formidable midfield trio along with Juraj Kuck and the returning Marek Hamsik represents a blow.

The last four matches between Slovakia and Ireland, three of them European qualifiers, have all ended in draws, but there must be a winner on this occasion with either Bosnia and Herzegovina or Northern Ireland waiting in the wings.

Hapal knows that will be no easy task, but is confident his team has what it will take to pass it.

He said: “We want to play in a big tournament once again. I personally would like to repeat the Euros, it’s an amazing tournament.

“I believe that the time has come for Slovakia and Ireland to break the draw. We know what they are strong at, so it’s up to us to show our strength.

“They are definitely not a weak team, the players will fight for the whole 90 minutes. They can decide the match in their favour even at the very end.”

The tie could be decided by which team best holds its nerve, but Hapal has insisted there is no room for anxiety.

“There is no time for that, not even a place. I don’t feel it and I don’t feel like the players feel it. It’s an important step, we are set up to handle it.”

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