Hamsik realistic over Bale clash


Slovakia star Marek Hamsik has played down any billing of Saturday's B opener in Bordeaux against Wales as a showdown between himself and Gareth Bale.

Bale hauled Wales into their first major international tournament since 1958 with a string of inspirational displays during qualification.

But Napoli midfielder Hamsik lived up to his billing as the eastern European nation's premier player with five goals as his country reached their maiden Euros.

Nevertheless, the 28-year-old believes the match at Stade de Bordeaux will be about much more than two high-level operators apparently in the prime of their careers.

"I think Gareth is one of the best players in the world. I wouldn't like to compare myself to him," Hamsik said at Friday's pre-match news conference.

"It won't be a match between Gareth Bale and Marek Hamsik because football is a team sport. 

"It is about team spirit and a good team performance. 

"We are really excited because a lot of time has passed since we qualified [for the 2010 World Cup, Slovakia's only previous major tournament] and we can't wait."

Slovakia coach Jan Kozak revealed he is normally a huge fan of Bale tearing defences to shreds as a Real Madrid supporter, but he hopes his team can withstand the challenge presented by the superstar forward.

"He's a top player, not just for Wales but one of the best players in the world," Kozak said, speaking alongside Hamsik.

"Right now he's in great form, he is physically very fit and I'm a Real Madrid fan - I watch every match of Real Madrid.

"Gareth Bale is a great individual player but we want to show our quality on the pitch. Only the match will show how we are able to put this into practice.

"I wouldn't like to go into details [on how Slovakia will deal with Bale]. We respect him but Wales is not just about Gareth Bale. They have other players who play in top English teams.

"Football is a team game. Without support from your team-mates you can't really be a great threat to your opponents."