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Slovenia

Slovenia

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Team Profile: Slovenia

GettyImagesSlovenia played at the 2002 finals but lost all three matches

Appearances at finals:
(As Yugoslavia)
1930 - Semi-finals
1950 - Fourth place
1954 - Quarter-finals
1958 - Quarter-finals
1962 - Fourth place
1974 - Second round
1982 - First round
1990 - Quarter-finals

(As Slovenia)
2002 - First round

Overall record at finals: Played 36, Won 14, Drawn 7, Lost 15.

Best performance: (As Yugoslavia) Fourth place in 1962.

Most appearances at finals: Branko Oblak (1974) - 5 (for Yugoslavia).

Most goals at finals: Branko Oblak (1974, for Yugoslavia), Sebastjan Cimirotic (2002, for Slovenia), Milenko Acimovic (2002, for Slovenia) - 1.

World Cup high: Slovenian Branko Oblak's goal for Yugoslavia at the 1974 World Cup - the seventh of the match in a 9-0 thrashing of Zaire.

World Cup low: Failing to pick up any points at the 2002 tournament, their first World Cup appearance as Slovenia.

World Cup legend: Branko 'Brane' Oblak and team-mate Danilo Popivoda became the first Slovenians to play in a World Cup when they represented Yugoslavia at the 1974 tournament in Germany. Oblak, a midfielder, was the more impressive of the duo and was named in the squad of the tournament despite the country failing to get a point in the second group stage. Oblak's performances earned him a move to Schalke the year after the World Cup and he later played for Bayern Munich.

The story so far: Although Slovenia had significant experience in World Cups as part of Yugoslavia, they contributed few players compared to other former Yugoslav states like Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina.

Nonetheless, despite a population of just two million and less than two decades as an independent football nation, Slovenia have already made a reasonable impact on world football. Their first international tournament was Euro 2000, where they recorded two draws and a defeat, and they followed that up by beating Romania in a play-off to qualify for the 2002 World Cup, where they lost to Spain, Paraguay and South Africa.

They failed to reach the 2006 tournament, finishing six points behind Norway in their qualification group, but recorded a famous 1-0 victory over Italy during that campaign. They then appeared to have gone backwards in their efforts to reach Euro 2008, finishing second-bottom of Group G, behind Romania, Netherlands, Bulgaria, Belarus and Albania.

Nonetheless, after his appointment in January 2007, coach Matjaz Kek has managed to turn around their fortunes and guided the side to South Africa in dramatic fashion.

Qualification: Drawn against Czech Republic, Poland, Slovakia, Northern Ireland and San Marino, Slovenia were handed one of the less challenging qualifying groups but were still considered outsiders to reach South Africa.

They made a positive start, though, drawing in Poland before beating Slovakia and Northern Ireland at home, but they then appeared to have let things slip as they took one point from two games with Czech Republic and then lost in Northern Ireland. However, they were reignited after a 5-0 win over San Marino, beating Poland 3-0 at home and Slovakia 2-0 away before rounding off the group with a 3-0 win over San Marino. With both Czech Republic and Poland having failed to perform to expected standards, Slovenia finished a comfortable second in the group, two points behind Slovakia, to book their place in the play-offs.

Considered outsiders in their group, they were given no chance at all as they faced Guus Hiddink's Russia over two legs for a place in South Africa. For most of the first leg in Moscow, they seemed to be following the script, too, as Diniyar Bilyaletdinov scored twice in what could easily have been a Russian rout. But, in the dying minutes, Robert Koren's shot was turned into substitute Nejc Pecnik's path and Slovenia had a vital away goal. In the second leg, Zlatko Dedic grabbed the only goal of the game against ten-man Russia and, against all the odds, they reached their third major international tournament.

Qualifying record: P10, W6, D2, L2, F18, A4, Pts20.

Most appearances: Andraz Kirm (12).

Top goalscorer: Milivoje Novakovic (5).