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Walker On May - 30 - 2010

World Cup 2010 Focus: Slovenia

Guest writer/James Dielhenn
The fact that Slovenia will even participate in the 2010 World Cup is a massive overachievement in itself. They were runners-up in a qualifying group that included the Czech Republic and Poland, the two clear favourites. After disposing of them, Slovenia had the difficult task of beating Russia in a play-off, which somehow they managed to do.

“For a small country like ours, it’s an incredible achievement to qualify for a World Cup,” said Slovenian striker Milijove Novakovic. “Before this qualification series started, nobody was giving this young team a hope.”

This will be Slovenia’s second World Cup, which isn’t a bad record for a country which has only been independent since 1991. Although they failed to get a point in the 2002 tournament, coach Matjaz Kek is under no pressure to perform this summer.

Udinese goalkeeper Samir Handanovic is one of the more well-known players at Kek’s disposal. He will be backed up by Chievo defender Bojan Jokic, and promising young Inter playmaker, Rene Krhin. Robert Koren, recently released by West Bromwich Albion, is his nation’s captain, and their midfield heartbeat. Zlatko Dedic, formerly of a host of Italian clubs, most notably Parma, will burden the responsibility of scoring the goals to power Slovenia on.

The underdogs Slovenia have been grouped with England, USA and Algeria. Very few people would back them to progress to the second-round, but after achieving qualification against the odds, one more step might not be beyond the Slovenians.

Slovenia’s provisional FIFA World Cup squad: Samir Handanovic (Udinese), Jasmin Handanovic (Mantova), Aleksander Seliga (Sparta Rotterdam), Jan Koprivec (Maribor); Bojan Jokic (Chievo), Marko Suler (Ghent), Bostjan Cesar (Grenoble), Branko Ilic (Lokomotiv Moscow), Matej Mavric (Koblenz), Dejan Kelhar (Cercle Brugge), Elvedin Dzinic (Maribor), Miso Brecko (Cologne), Aleksandar Rajcevic (Koper), Suad Filekovic (Maribor); Andraz Kirm (Wisla Krakow), Andrej Komac (Maccabi Tel Aviv), Rene Krhin (Internazionale), Mirnes Sisic (Giannina), Darjan Matic (Rapid Bucharest), Dare Vrsic (Koper), Dalibor Stevanovic (Vitesse Arnhem), Robert Koren (West Bromwich Albion), Aleksander Radosavljevic (Larissa), Valter Birsa (Auxerre); Milivoje Novakovic (Cologne), Zlatko Dedic (VfL Bochum), Zlatan Ljubijankic (Ghent), Nejc Pecnik (Nacional), Miran Burgic (AIK), Tim Matavz (Groningen).

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