Road To The World Cup: Slovenia Has Inside Track On England

Brian BrauseContributor IJune 11, 2010

LONDON, ENGLAND - SEPTEMBER 05:  Robert Koren of Slovenia in action during the International Friendly match between England and Slovenia at Wembley Stadium on September 5, 2009 in London, England.  (Photo by Mark Thompson/Getty Images)
Mark Thompson/Getty Images

Slovenia had many ups and downs throughout the 2010 World Cup qualifiers.  Slovenia began strong, drawing with Poland and then beating Slovakia and Northern Ireland. They then went on a win less streak, drawing and losing to the Czech Republic along with Northern Ireland. They regained confidence by thrashing San Marino and Poland.  They closed out the qualifiers by losing to Slovakia and San Marino.

Slovenia finished second in their group and with Slovakia beating Poland 1-0, they missed out on automatic qualification. This meant they would have to play Russia in a two leg playoff for berth in the 2010 World Cup. Although they lost to Russia 2-1 in the first leg, the away goal proved to be priceless. In the second leg, they beat Russia 1-0 at home to clinch a spot in their second ever World Cup.

With 9 goals in 45 international caps, keep an eye out for Slovenia's captain and West Bromwich Albion's central midfielder Robert Koren.  With Koren having played against many of England's national team in the Premier League, Slovenia will be a wild card against England.

With only two starters over the age of 30, Slovenia is a force to be reckoned with. If they are able to keep focused and keep fundamental mistakes to a minimum, they have the potential of making it out of their group and into the second round.

Slovenia Factfile
Nickname: The Slovenes
Top Goal Scorer: Zlatko Zahovič 35 goals,
Manager- Matjaž Kek
Most Capped: Zlatko Zahovič  80 caps
Captain: Robert Koren
Highest Fifa ranking: 23 (april 2010)
Lowest Fifa ranking 134 ( december 1993)

Slovenia v England, 23/6/2010 4pm