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Martin Skrtel: Slovakia star player at World Cup 2010
20/11/2009  by Telegraph.co.uk
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Dominant: at just 24 years-old Martin Skrtel has established himself as one of Slovakia's most essential players

Caps: 37
Goals: 5
World Cup appearances: None
World Cup 2010 qualification: 6 appearances/1 goal

Club: Liverpool
Age: 24
Position: Defender

Slovakia qualified for South Africa by topping a strong group including Slovenia, Czech Republic, Poland and Northern Ireland, and Liverpool defender Skrtel was one of the key men in their success.

At 6ft 4in, he is naturally aggressive and good in the air, but is also deceptively quick, and has already established himself as one of his country’s senior players despite his youth.

Although his Liverpool career has been marred by injury problems, he made a return in the 2-2 draw with Birmingham and is ready to fight for a place in the Liverpool back four with Dan Agger.

Skrtel almost chose a career in hockey before starting out at Slovakian clubs Previdza and Trencin before moving to Zenit St Petersburg in 2004 and becoming a key member of the side that clinched the Russian title in 2007, breaking a dozen years of Moscow dominance.

His performances attracted the attention of a number of Premier League clubs, and Rafael Benítez signed him in January 2008 for £6.5 million, at the time a Liverpool record for a defender.

Twice Slovakian Footballer of the Year, his experience at the highest level will come in handy for a side competing in their first major tournament.

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