Slovenia captain Koren praises provisional WC squad
Slovenia captain Robert Koren praised the balance and camaraderie of the provisional squad announced Tuesday for the World Cup, eight years after the country's first appearance at the tournament was affected by disunity.
Goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, defender Bostjan Cesar, midfielder Andraz Kirm, and strikers Milivoj Novakovic and Zlatko Dedic are the other core players in coach Matjaz Kek's 30-man squad.
"Before we had one star in the team," Koren said. "Now we are trying to play more as a team than have one star in the team. We are really good friends and developing a team spirit."
Slovenia went home from the 2002 World Cup in disarray after three straight losses, and a damaging rift between the coach and the team's best player.
The team qualified for the 2010 World Cup by ousting Russia in a big upset in the November playoffs on away goals. With a population of two million, Slovenia will be the smallest nation at the June 11-July 11 tournament in South Africa.
Slovenia is in Group C with Algeria, United States and England. Kek has to announce his final squad by June 1. The team will play a friendly against New Zealand on June 4.
Slovenian squad goalkeepers: Samir Handanovic (Udinese), Jasmin Handanovic (Mantova), Aleksander Seliga (Sparta Rotterdam), Jan Koprivec (Gallipoli).
Defenders: Bojan Jokic (Chievo Verona), Marko Suler (Ghent), Bostjan Cesar (Grenoble), Branko Ilic (Lokomotiv Moscow), Matej Mavric-Rozic (Koblenz), Dejan Kelhar (Cercle Brugge), Elvedin Dzinic (Maribor), Miso Brecko (Cologne), Aleksandar Rajcevic (Koper), Suad Filekovic (Maribor).
Midfielders: Andraz Kirm (Wisla Krakow), Andrej Komac (Maccabi Tel-Aviv), Rene Krhin (Inter Milan), Mirnes Sisic (Giannina), Darjan Matic (Rapid Bucharest), Dare Vrsic (Koper), Dalibor Stevanovic (Vitesse Arnhem), Robert Koren (West Bromwich Albion), Aleksander Radosavljevic (Larissa), Valter Birsa (Auxerre).
Forwards: Milivoje Novakovic (Cologne), Zlatko Dedic (Bochum), Zlatan Ljubijankic (Ghent), Nejc Pecnik (Nacional Funchal), Miran Burgic (AIK Solna), Tim Matavz (Groningen).