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Slovakia look for Skrtel play-off recall

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Martin Skrtel

Martin Skrtel

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Martin Skrtel

Slovakia are considering calling former Liverpool defender Martin Skrtel out of international retirement for the Euro 2020 playoff against Ireland in 15 days' time.

Now 35 and playing his club football in Turkey, Skrtel had announced his decision to retire from the national team 20 months ago and focused on his club career.

But national team boss Pavel Hapal, with a number of worries in his squad over injury and availability due to Covid-19, now says he has held talks with the veteran about a return to the international stage.

"I have spoken to Martin. It was a pleasant and positive conversation," says Hapal.

"He currently has some injury problems, so we will monitor him. The topic of his return is not yet closed. We agreed that we would call before the squad is named next Tuesday."

Skrtel was capped 104 times against Slovakia, including three appearances against Ireland, a 1-0 defeat in Dublin in 2007 and subsequent draws in 2011 and 2016.

Since he left Liverpool in 2016 he has played for Fenerbahce, Atalanta and is currently with Istanbul Basaksehir, playing in both of their games since the Turkish league restarted earlier this month.

Skrtel says he decided to step aside from the national team last year to give a chance to younger players but has since expressed his disappointment that a new generation has not stepped up. "At the moment, like other fans, I am disappointed," he said of the team's recent form.

Manager Hapal also says he has been given the backing of his employers in the Slovakian FA despite a tough start to the Nations League campaign.

He was under fire for a 3-1 defeat at home to the Czech Republic but morale was boosted by a 1-1 draw in Israel, Slovakia only denied a win by a late equaliser from the Israelis.

"I am very glad that the president has trusted me and after such a difficult meeting and results, I can continue to work with the team and prepare it for the most important match of this period. We will do our best with the boys to succeed in the playoffs with Ireland," Hapal added.

Slovakia's main concern ahead of Ireland's visit next month is the goalkeeping position, with no date set for a return to action for injured Newcastle United No 1 Martin Dubravka, while back-up keeper Marek Rodak was dropped by Fulham after conceding three goals in the first game of the new Premier League season.