Slovenian press: Slovenians are very confident
All week, in the lead up to the important World Cup clash between the US and Slovenia, pundits in the States have spoken and written tens of thousands of English words about how it’ll go. You may not know it, but there are an equal number in Slovenian.
In an effort to hear the buzz surrounding Friday's foe, we scouted out a couple of Slovenian soccer scribes to get their takes on the game.
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Before he'd even start with match analysis, Andrej Miljković of the nation's top sports daily, Ekipa, was eager to impress exactly how monstrously important this game is back home.
"We now have a chance to get among the last 16 of a World Cup, so this is the biggest game in Slovenia's history," he told MLSsoccer.com by phone from South Africa. "This is how it's seen by the team, by the media, by the public.
"Everybody knows it is going to be a tough match. The USA has improved year after year, and has now reached the level that has never been reached before by U.S. soccer, so we all know this is a very, very good team."
"But this is our chance," stated Miljković. "It's one match, and if we win it, we're directly through to the second round."
Zurnal24 correspondent Pine Zupam reports that those fans at home believe their boys can get the job done against the United States in Johannesburg.
"Slovenians are very confident, the fans of the national team," he said. "Mostly, they are wondering if we will go for the win.
"If we win, we advance, but this team has been based its success in the past months on a solid defense and quick counterattacking moves, so we are not sure if the coach will be brave enough."
Miljković, however, feels Slovenia coach Matjaž Kek does not have the luxury of choice; he must attack at some point.
"The team will do its best," he assured. "They are highly motivated. The coach has studied the opposition as well as he could, so he believes the team is ready, the team is prepared, and they will give it a go. They will try to write Slovenia's football history.
"They will definitely go for the win. A draw, we know, probably won't be enough. It will be very difficult to get any points against England. Everybody believes the U.S. are a great team, but not as good as England. The draw, to us, means third place."
"It will not be a siege on the U.S. goal," Miljković presumes of the game plan. "But it will be a tactical approach that is cautious at the back, tries to score at least one goal and not give any."
Zupam is in full agreement that Slovenia won't want to head into group closing day needing a result off England.
"[The team] would find themselves in an awkward position on the last draw, trying to save its skin against England," he said.
He says the operation is airtight around Slovenia camp these days, with the Green Dragons not wanting to give away any clues about what they'll do on Friday.
"I think they are hiding," cracked Zupam. "In the last press conference, they refused to talk about anything concrete. They will probably start with a conservative approach and act accordingly."
He does not hesitate to offer his guess as to the manager's biggest worry over facing the US with everything on the line.
"The link-up between [Clint] Dempsey and [Landon] Donovan," Zupam opined. "It could be difficult if [Donovan] cuts inside from the left because he is a right-footed shooter. It could cause problems because our fullbacks are perhaps not as strong as they should be."
Miljković thought in broader terms when pondering the greatest concern for Slovenia.
"The biggest problem they have to worry about, I think, is the physical strength [of the U.S. team]," said. "Slovenia has always had problems with physical teams. They do well against what I like to call the soft teams, the teams that like to put the ball on the floor and consider themselves technical."
"Not that they are not good technical players, but the U.S. is a team with a huge amount of physical strength. [Slovenia] have a physical deficit to the United States of America."