Martin Skrtel would have no qualms about kicking Liverpool team-mate Daniel Sturridge if it ensured Slovakia’s progress at Euro 2016.
Slovakia take on England in Saint-Etienne on Monday with the Three Lions knowing a draw will take them through to the last 16 while that result should also be enough for Jan Kozak’s side to progress.
Sturridge is expected to replace Harry Kane in England’s attack after his injury-time winner against Wales on Thursday but Skrtel will not afford his club colleague preferential treatment.
Asked if he would kick Sturridge if he was clean through and had the chance to win the game, Skrtel replied: “Obviously yes! We can be friends before the game and after the game but on the pitch we are not friends.
“If you ask Daniel the same question he would answer the same. We both try to do the best for our teams and if that means kicking him them I have to do it.”
Skrtel has spent over eight years at Anfield, although speculation persists over his Liverpool future, and he admits Monday’s clash will be one to remember.
“It will be a very special game as I’ve been in England a long time,” he added. “Obviously I just have to focus on my performance. Everyone knows about England’s qualities which they proved in the qualifiers as well as in the previous two games. We know what to expect but believe we can do well.
“It’s not just about Daniel Sturridge or the other strikers, we have to be ready for the whole team. It’s always 11 versus 11 on the pitch and we have to try to be better than them. We’re not looking at them as individuals, it doesn’t matter if it’s Sturridge, Kane or [Jamie] Vardy, we have to try to control them all and be better than them.”
Skrtel has been impressed with England at Euro 2016 and watched with interest their 1-1 draw with Russia and 2-1 defeat of Wales.
“They dominated against Russia and were unlucky to concede a goal so late,” he added. “It was a different game against Wales, being 1-0 down and scoring a winner themselves in the last minute.
“They’ve played well in both games, showed their quality and confirmed they are one of the best sides in the world.”
Despite praising the opposition, Skrtel is confident Slovakia can cause a surprise if they play as a team.
“We showed desire, character and heart against Russia, we were ready to fight for 90 minutes,” he continued. “We were under pressure in the second half but the desire to win was massive and we got a good result.
“[Marek] Hamsik is our star player but the main strength of the team is the team. We work together.
“We must use the weapons we used against Russia, to be together and to play with our hearts. When we give 100 per cent on the pitch and add in some quality then I think we are always successful.”
Slovakia boss Jan Kozak conceded England are the favourites but pointed to their record in qualifying for reasons to be optimistic.
“We are aware of the strength of our opponents, they are very tough,” he said, “but if we want to stay here [in France] we have to get a good result.
“Our team also has quality and we will try to neutralise their strengths and prevail with our strong points.
“To qualify for the Euros you have to do well in a tough qualification period and we managed to beat Spain and Ukraine, teams who are also here. It was a long journey to get here, we are very motivated and we need to get at least a point.”