18 June ~ There was high excitement in Slovenia after the team's first ever World Cup win. Prime Minister Borut Pahor, possibly overdoing it, claimed: “This is a victory of epic proportions, proving us once again to be a small nation with a great heart. This is only the beginning.” Meanwhile manager Matjaž Kek praised the team for their success in a "very tense psychological match" against Algeria. It’s being viewed as an even greater result given the youth of the team and the fact that this they have been together for a relatively short time.
According to the players and coaching staff, the team found it difficult to adjust to the Polokwane pitch with its synthetic fibres. The squad weren’t able to train at the ground until the day before the Algeria game and on the matchday described the surface as slippery. Unsurprisingly, the Slovene players have also joined in the general criticisms of the Jabulani ball. The vuvuzelas, the altitude and the heat were all put forward as contributing factors for the less than scintillating display. And there has been some unhappiness at the negative reviews the match received internationally, especially within the Anlgophone press. Some of the comments reportedly caused Kek to go "berserk".
Conceding that his team may have suffered a little stage-fright in their opener, Kek is promising a “spectacle and a fantastic match” against the US. Ellis Park is at a lower altitude than Polokwane and cooler temperatures are expected. Jure Bohorič, a columnist with the sports paper Ekipa, is cautiously optimistic ahead of today’s game, pointing out that since last August Slovenia have won eight of the ten matches they have played – losing only to Russia and England and still managing to find the net in both games.
Writers with another paper, Dnevnik, have been highlighting the similarities between the US and Slovenia as both teams are likely to line-up in a 4-4-2 formation, and possess quick midfielders and highly rated keepers. Dnevnik also reports that some American players have been remarking (somewhat euphemistically, no doubt) on Slovenia’s ‘minimalistic’ style, going on to compare the team to San Marino. If the US were hoping to wind up the Slovenes, they’ve certainly succeeded. Jaimie Henderson