Slovakia right-back Peter Pekarik: Team is better than it was in 2010

Slovakia go into Euro 2016 knowing they face a tough test in Group B, with England, Wales and Russia to face.

However, Hertha Berlin right-back Peter Pekarik tells ESPN FC, in an exclusive interview, that he is confident his side can upset the odds.

Q. Slovakia have beaten three World Cup winners over the last six years -- Italy, Spain and Germany. Are you experts in playing big teams?

A. For us, it is a really amazing feeling to win against such fantastic and big teams, because they all belong to the very best in the world. It is because of our cohesion and the great work of whole team that we picked up these good results. In modern football, especially at international level, you have to be fully prepared for every match.

When you play against a big team, you have to be 100 percent focused during the whole 90 minutes, because those teams are able to punish even a small mistake. When they put you under pressure you have to fulfil your tactical instructions and, after winning the ball, you have to be brave in the attack and try to shock your opponent.

Q. A few weeks ago, Slovakia were considered one of the lesser teams at Euro 2016 but after the 3-1 friendly win against Germany there is a big optimism. Has that put pressure on you?

A. I am totally convinced that after the victory against Germany nobody from our team has his head in the clouds. Everyone realises that the really important matches, in terms of our results, will be at the Euros. We are focused on our goal and that is, without doubt, to advance from a very hard group.

Q. What are the biggest strengths of Slovakia's team?

A. The biggest strength of our team is, without doubt, an amazing team spirit. Players hang out together after every match and get on really well. Also, our coach (Jan Kozak) is perfect. He has used a perfect blend of experienced and also young and talented players.

Q. Which players are, in your opinion, the key for national team?

A. Certainly, there are several key players. But everyone has a role in this team and tries to do whatever they can to fill it in the best way. So, as I have already mentioned, the key to success is in our team spirit.

Q. Slovakia played at the World Cup 2010 and managed to get into the round of 16. Could that experience help you in some way at Euro 2016?

A. It is great that our team has been together for a few years. You could see in the Euro 2016 qualifiers that we were able to transmit that experience to the performances in those hard matches. And I believe that they will help us in France also.

Q. What are the similarities and differences between the national team in 2010 and now?

A. As I have already mentioned, the team has played together for a very long time. During this period we have gained a lot of valuable experience and, because of this, I think that the current team is stronger than the team from 2010.

Q. Has coach Kozak brought something new to the squad?

A. He and his staff are responsible for the team spirit and the cohesion in the team. He is an extraordinary football expert and amazing strategist. During those moments when we are down, he is able to calm the team. On the other side, he always manages to motivate us really well to face each opponent.

Q. Why do you think Slovakia are able to play better against the big teams, while they struggle when they have to create and dominate?

A. The team always plays easier against an opponent which prefers open play, or against a stronger team because there usually is a space for a counter-attacking approach. And, of course, that is always better than trying to break into the box of opponent, which sits deep in a solid defensive block for the whole 90 minutes.

Q. While you are one of the national team's key players, you have not had a lot of regular playing time at Hertha Berlin. Is not it hard for you to get into the match rhythm?

A. My shoulder injury stopped me from playing as many minutes as I would have liked, but it is cured now. I played in the majority of league matches in the Spring and I am very thankful for that. I feel perfectly well from the point of view of my physicality, mentality and I feel totally comfortable on the pitch.