World Rankings: 27th
Notable World Cup History: South Korea 2002, First Round
Matjaz Kek took over the team in 2007. He is a former player turned coach and has led an unsuspecting Slovenia team to compete in only their second appearance at the world stage.
His focus for the team is a defensive one as they are the underdogs in Group C with USA, England, and Algeria.
The Slovenia native had difficulty at first as his team went 0-3-1 with critics quickly jumping at his inability to coach. Well known for changing the squad formation from 3-4-1-2 to 4-4-2, success was slow but it came at the right time.
He propelled the team to stronger showings against opponents Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, and Norther Ireland gaining them respect and attention.
Striker Milivoje Novakovic is considered a veteran of the team despite being only 30 years-old. He is the only player on a young Slovenian team to score into the double digits in international competition.
Little is known about probable starting goalkeeper Samir Handanovic. One thing is for sure, he played outstanding enough to get recognition from opponents. He was the number one goalie in all the qualifying games and showed he is ready to take on the world.
The Slovenia team is anchored by Captain Robert Koren. He is an attacking midfielder with great tactics. Koren is the the player with the most caps and can push his team to perform at a high level.
Goalie Handanovic is one to watch out for. Slovenia has solid goaltending and a youthful team. Their qualifying rounds proved that they are a spirited team who will not give up. They are considered underdogs, as such, the pressure to perform is not high. This can help them slip under the radar and surprise their opponents.
Group C is not considered the group of death but for Slovenia, they will have difficult opponents. This is only their second appearance and they did not have a strong showing in the 2006 World Cup. Experience on the world stage is not on their side.
While a youthful team provides energy, their lack of experience can really hinder them. They have notable offense but the team can’t only rely on the keeper. The defense will need to be extremely strong to stop the likes of English superstar Wayne Rooney, which may be too much to ask of them.
Reality is that Slovenia is not expected to qualify to the round of 16. USA and England are the favourites to win in Group C which presents a daunting task for the small country. They are expected to perform better than their last World Cup appearance where they finished with zero points.
They are a stronger team than before but mostly, gaining world experience is what they will get. While spirits are high, it is possible to give Algeria a run for their money. Look for Handanovic to be outstanding between the post.
“For a small country like ours, it’s an incredible achievement to qualify for a World Cup. Before this qualification series started, nobody was giving this young team a hope. But now, the players and the whole country are proud of our success. We want to show that, small as we are, we can compete with the best,” said striker Novakovic to Fifa.com.