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Rusnák, Slovakia Fall To Russia Making World Cup Hopes Dwindle

Albert Rusnak of Slovakia in action during the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier between England and Slovakia at Wembley Stadium on September 4, 2017 in London, England (Photo by Stu Forster/Getty Images)

SALT LAKE CITY, Utah – The 5,670-mile trek from Salt Lake City to Kazan, Russia ended in defeat for Real Salt Lake’s captain Albert Rusnák after Milan Škriniar’s own goal in the 24th minute proved vital in Slovakia’s 1-0 defeat to Russia.

Rusnák began on the bench for Slovakia but made his appearance in the 64th minute coming on with hopes of leveling the scores. Immediately, he positioned himself as Slovakia’s floating number 10, just in front of the marquee man Marek Hamšík.

As the floating number 10, Rusnák traveled all across the width of the pitch inside the attacking third. Often linking up with Hamšík in an effort to add goal-scoring chances.

Despite dominating the possession tally 74 percent to 26 percent, Rusnák and Slovakia could not find any answer to the suffocating defense of Russia. As Rusnák entered the game, Russia brought on another center back creating five defenders across their backline. Slovakia controlled the tempo of the match but could not penetrate the backline of Russia.

The best moment of the game for Slovakia came in the 76th minute when winger Ivan Schranz found himself in a one-on-one situation but was denied by the diving legs of Russian goalkeeper Matvei Safonov.

As a result of the loss, Slovakia’s chances of qualifying for next year’s FIFA World Cup are dwindling. They currently find themselves in fourth place in Group H on nine points through seven matches played.

Slovakia will next play Croatia, who sits atop Group H, in Osijek, Croatia on Monday, October 11th with kickoff slated for 12:45 p.m.

Another loss for Slovakia and their World Cup dreams will effectively end. The winner of groups automatically qualifies for the World Cup, the runner-ups qualify for the play-offs. With just three World Cup qualifying games remaining, Slovakia must catch Russia who sits tied with Croatia atop the group on 16 points following the most recent result.