Captain Robert Koren said about the US-England game: “Both teams put in a lot of energy but there were a lot of mistakes, we saw good things and bad things and our coaching staff will try to get as much information out of that as possible. We have confidence after the win against Algeria and we will give them both a good game. Hopefully after the match with the USA we will still be top of the group.” Optimistic words from the man who spent three-and-a-half years in England. The US will be a lot tougher than Algeria turned out to be on Sunday’s encounter, with Slovenia snatching a 1-0 win. The key to beating the United States’ on Friday will surely be to attack from the kick-off, something which England tried in vain to do. If Slovenia can apply themselves in the right way they have a realistic chance to prove themselves and gain the desired result.
Ahead of the clash, United States’ Coach Bob Bradley said “the the Slovenia game might be more of a chess match. They are a hard-working team. They are organized. They have an ability to sit back a little more and still get you on the counter.” Slovenian Coach Matjez Kek will have heard Bradley’s words and will be vying to prove his opposite number wrong when he sets out an attacking approach to unsettle the United States’. With only 4 goals conceded in qualifying and a clean sheet to their name in this year’s tournament, Slovenia head into the match full of confidence. Clint Dempsey and Landon Donovan will provide the danger once again to the Slovenian defence, just as they did against England, and Kek must be very aware of this. A change of tactics from their usual 4-4-2 line up into something like a 4-2-3-1 may unsettle the rhythm of their counterparts on Friday’s clash.
The introduction of Inter Milan starlet Rene Krhin will add more punch and flavour to Slovenia’s goal threat, something which was lacking on Sunday. Although they are at an all-time high confidence wise, they still seem nervous and fragile on the bigger stage and this is something Bradley will look to exploit. He will be expecting Slovenia to sit back and soak up the pressure, so to spring a genuine tactical surprise will have Bradley looking at other options if Slovenia begin to get the upper hand. Deploying such tactics may leave Donovan and Dempsey free to roam down the wings and cause tangible problems for the Europeans but if they can make the most of their own wide men, Valta Birsa and Andraz Kirm, do not be surprised to see the Americans back pedalling.
Nevertheless it is essential to remember that Slovenia are ranked 25th in the FIFA World Rankings and they have not got there because of slow, defensive football. It is perhaps time for them to come out of their shell and really shine on the world stage and give the United States’ the fright of their lives when Friday comes round. With no injury concerns and morale high throughout the whole camp, Slovenia can do their fans proud with an alternative attacking display and if they were to lose, they still have a real chance of making the last-16, such is the way the group is turning out.