Graham (follow on Twitter: @grahamsibley)
Wed 12 May 2010

32 For 2010: Slovenia

This is the third major international tournament Slovenia have qualified for - each time by manner of a play-off. They overcame Ukraine to win a place at Euro 2000 and beat Romania to qualify for the 2002 World Cup.

The key to Slovenia's qualification campaign was their excellent home form (they conceded just one goal in six games) and an away victory against the eventual group winners Slovakia, denying the Czech Republic, Poland and Northern Ireland a place in South Africa. They had a tough draw in the play-off against Russia - who had a very strong group stage. Despite falling two goals down in the first leg, a late strike from Sparta Praha's Nejc Pečnik gave them an away goal - an all important away goal as they went on to win 1-0 in the return fixture in Maribor, Bochum's Zlatko Dedič getting the goal.

Slovenia's main threat up front is FC Köln's 6'4" striker Milivoje Novakovič. However he's found goals hard to come by recently following a much publicised falling out with his club manager Zvonimir Soldo - scoring just six this season. Their only UK based player is team captain Robert Koren, a mainstay of the West Brom midfield for the past three seasons. It's likely that the squad will be entirely made up of non-domestic players.

Slovenia have been drawn with England, USA and Algeria - of these sides the only team they've played before is England - right at the start of this season. Belgian-based striker Zlatan Ljubijankič picking up a late goal in their 2-1 friendly defeat at Wembley. They may feel they have an advantage in playing England last in the group - hoping that England will have already done enough to qualify for the next stage by that time. Their key match is their opener against Algeria where anything less than a win will give them a huge mountain to climb; realistically though, the most they can hope to achieve is an improvement on their 2002 showing where they lost all three games.

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