BRATISLAVA (Reuters) - Slovakia's most influential player in the World Cup qualifiers, Stanislav Sestak, topped the scoring chart and most of his six goals in eight games were vital for the team's progress to South Africa.
The winger scored two late goals in a 2-1 home win over Poland midway through the campaign to pave the way for Slovakia to reach their first major tournament as an independent nation.
The 27-year-old, who can also be deployed as a second striker, started his professional career in 2000 at Tatran Presov before he moved on to Slovan Bratislava, where he scored just six goals in 58 appearances.
Sestak was instrumental in this success with 15 goals and a tally of 49 goals in 99 appearances for Zilina caught the eye of Bundesliga scouts.
His reward was a move to VfL Bochum, where he has scored 28 goals in 79 matches.
Sestak is a versatile forward with a lot of pace, good skill and a finishing ability second to none in the Slovakian squad. He is excellent at creating space for himself and team mates.
The Slovakians will need Sestak to reproduce his qualifying form and add to his tally of 10 goals in 29 internationals if they are to stand a decent chance of progressing from a group including world champions Italy, Paraguay and New Zealand.
(Writing by Zoran Milosavljevic in Belgrade; Editing by Robert Woodward)