As Slovenia prepare for what is the biggest game in their short history, Captain Robert Koren has upped the ante and insisted they have what it takes to beat England on Wednesday. He said of the games against the United States and Algeria: They
Defender Marko Suler is unlikely to feature due to a rib injury so it is essential his replacement is prepared and focused from an expected England onslaught in what is a must win game for Fabio Capello’s side. Kek has not yet hinted at who would be a suitable replacement but Suler may pass a late fitness test and play so it will surely be a last minute decision from the Coach. Other than that Slovenia have a fully fit squad to choose from and Kek believes a win is possible, he said: “I don’t care about the other match, I am just focused on this match and I think we will come out on top.” He went on to say: “When we came here we wanted to get past the group stage, that was our goal and it’s still the same.” Strikingly confident words from a man who has worked something of a small miracle to propel Slovenia to dizzy new heights.
The same can not be said of their opponents who are almost comparable to their French rivals in terms of serious unrest amongst the camp. A dismal draw against Algeria followed by a vigorous rant from star man Wayne Rooney and former Captain John Terry has certainly nullified England’s preparations. Slovenia and Kek will be enjoying every moment of the controversy surrounding England as they can go quietly about beating their opponents on Wednesday.
In what will be a fitting tribute to Kek’s efforts the Slovenian tourist board is offering refunds to holidaymakers on how well the team do this summer. If the Slovenians were to defy all odds and win the World Cup there would be a full refund, a semi-final berth would see a 50% reduction and so forth. A draw or a victory over England and expect to see a few more holidaymakers basking in the Mediterranean over the next few weeks.
More serious issues lie ahead of the team as Kek ponders whether to rely on the attacking strategy that worked so well against the United States. England may well be anticipating Slovenia to play a short passing, defensive game but they could spring a real surprise if they stick to their offensive ploy. Kek must take the positives in what eventually proved a disappointing result against the United States and build upon this to coil an unfashionable victory over England and knock them out. Samir Handanovic, Robert Koren and Milivoje Novakovic will be instrumental if the Slovenians are to succeed and England must be very aware of this. The confidence of the English is low, the pressure on Capello is soaring through the roof and England are relying on a third-choice centre back to partner John Terry. Slovenia must capitalise on this and keep focused if they are to prevail. Defensively is the only area that Slovenia must tighten up on and considering their record during qualifying, it is something they know they can do.
Kek knows his team is so close to an unlikely qualification and a possible meeting with three times winners Germany, Africa’s feisty Ghanaian side or another European underdog in Serbia. Regardless of the score on Wednesday Kek can bask in the glory that he has served the Slovenian fans proud. “Our whole nation is together following our success, it’s a big thing back home, they are very proud of us and we want to continue making them proud.”