What are the expectations for the team?
Improving on their debut performance in 2002 – the team returned home without a single point from a group containing Spain, Paraguay and South Africa. On paper this team is stronger than the “Golden Generation” of eight years ago. A point would be a start, but many Slovenes hope that they will be able to record a win against Algeria at least.
Is the coach popular?
Being a former NK Maribor coach, Matjez Kek was always likely to be viewed with some hostility by the more partisan elements of the football-watching public in the rival city of Ljubljana. Kek was elevated directly to the national side after coaching the Under-15 and Under-16 teams, something unthinkable elsewhere in Europe. Inauspicious beginnings aside, any manager who can qualify for the World Cup will be popular with the vast majority of the country.
Is the team likely to have any unusual goal celebrations?
Considered a reserved nation by their neighbours, running away from goal with arms held aloft seems to be the celebration of choice for Slovene goalscorers. After qualifying for a place in South Africa the team were treated to having their boots cleaned by Prime Minister Borut Pahor. Who’s to say that there won’t be similar incentives in place for the finals?
Are there any personal rivalries in the squad?
Team spirit is considered to be high and with luck no personal issues will develop. Tensions within the 2002 camp led to the expulsion of the team’s star, Zlatko Zahovic, and were widely blamed for the chronic under-performance in that tournament.
Are any players involved in politics?
Former international player Miran Pavlin was a candidate for the centre-right SDS (Slovene Democratic Party) in the 2008 elections. He hasn’t pulled on a Slovenia shirt since 2004. But in 2009, after four years at Olimpija Ljubljana, he gained the rare distinction of becoming both player and director of football at Luka Koper.
Have the team recorded a song for the World Cup?
Prior to the qualifying match against Northern Ireland, the Slovene FA released the New Slovenian Football Hymn, entitled Dviga Slovenija zastave. The song is by Siddarta and Big Foot Mama, two of the countries more successful rock bands. Not the catchiest of tunes, it’s unlikely to be a familiar sound in the South African stands.
What will the media coverage be like?
National broadcaster RTV Slovenija has been allocated the rights to show matches on free-to-air television. As well as live coverage of matches there will be a lengthy magazine show covering the latest news from the World Cup. Former internationals Saso Udovic, Miran Pavlin and Zahovic occasionally co-commentate on matches but are more likely to be found in the studio providing analysis. Drago Kos is a more regular pundit and analyst – a former amateur player who went on to become Slovenia’s top referee, Kos has branched out from football to become chairman of the country’s Commission for the Prevention of Corruption.
Will there be many fans travelling to South Africa?
According to some media sources more than 1,000 fans intend to travel, a good turnout for a country with a population of only two million. The supporters’ most common chant is one also used by several others – Kdor ne skače ni slovenc, hej, hej, hej. This is roughly translated as: Anyone not jumping isn’t Slovene, hey, hey, hey. Jaimie Henderson