Wednesday, June 02, 2010

2010 FIFA World Cup: Slovenia

We preview the 2010 FIFA World Cup, set for June 11-July 11 in South Africa.

Appearance: Second
Last time there: 2002, exited in first round
Best performance: Has never advanced past first round

Don't take this entry lightly. Slovenia may be a small nation (smallest of the 32 nations in the finals), but they have players, and they could be a factor in this World Cup.

Qualifying wasn't a breeze, as Slovenia finished second to Slovakia in their group, and they had to hold off Czech Republic and Northern Ireland to get in a playoff with Russia for a bid. Slovenia won that to advance to South Africa.

There are some guys on this roster who could cause trouble. Captain Robert Koren is the main playmaker in the midfield, while they will rely on Milivoje Novakovic's scoring touch to lead the way offensively.

Look out for defender Marko Suler at both ends of the field, as he is a strong defender who brings some ability on set pieces to the table. He could be extremely valuable in low-scoring matches.

If teams are able to establish possession, goalkeeper Samir Handanovic could be quite busy in group play. England and the United States will try to play a fast pace against Slovenia, and it will be up to them to dictate the style of play and make it something more compatible with their talent.

Where Slovenia could surprise is with their depth. Players like Mirnes Sicic and Darjan Matic will likely come off the bench, but they're formidable talents who can help Slovenia win.

If Slovenia can overcome a generally poor record in international play, they might surprise England and/or Team USA. It's unquestionably an uphill battle, however.

June 13 vs. Algeria (Polokwane)
June 18 vs. United States (Johannesburg -- Ellis Park)
June 23 vs. England (Port Elizabeth)

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