Slovenia World Cup PreviewPosted: Monday May 27, 2002 8:58 PM
How they line up
When coach Srecko Katanec is asked how his team plays, he will never admit that his tactics are based solely on defense. When he is reminded that he plays a 4-5-1 formation, and that the lone striker more often than not gets back to help the defense, Katanec simply responds that "it is not important how many players are forward; rather, how many of them get forward at the right time."
Katanec continually tells his players of the need to withdraw behind the ball as soon as they concede possession and wait for the chance to break on the counter-attack.
The experienced Marko Simeunovic is the first-choice keeper, with Mladen Dabanovic his deputy. Simeunovic, the team's oldest player, is an experienced organizer of the back line. The talented but inexperienced Dejan Nemec is third choice.
The defense consists of three stoppers -- Aleksander Knavs, Zeljko Milinovic and Amir Karic -- with Marinko Galic as sweeper. Knavs is the most accomplished defender by a long way and has impressed with his performances in the Bundesliga with Kaiserslautern. Other options include Spasoje Bulajic and Muamer Vugdalic, both of whom are strong man-markers, but have been sidelined by injuries and illness in recent months.
In midfield, Ales Ceh plays almost as a second sweeper in front of the defense. Ceh, the team captain, tends to concentrate on man-marking the opposing team's best player. Djoni Novak (right) and Mladen Rudonja (left) are likely to fill the flanks, with Miran Pavlin and Zlatko Zahovic in the centre. Pavlin is a clever reader of the game, but tends to play a secondary role to Zahovic, Slovenia's one world-class player. Much though Katanec denies it, Zahovic is by far his most influential player, a leader on the pitch and the country's all-time top scorer by a long margin.
Milenko Acimovic is a useful alternative in midfield and can retain possession well. Sasa Gajser can appear as a more mobile attacking option on the right, but is not as technically accomplished as Novak. On the left flank, Nastja Ceh is a clever player whose intelligent passing gives the coach another option. Zoran Pavlovic covers a lot of ground and is often used as a late substitute for tactical reasons. Karic can also move up from defense to play on the left of midfield.
In attack, Milan Osterc is the first choice as the lone striker. Through his powerful runs he tries to open up space for Zahovic to create. Sebastjan Cimirotic is the most likely alternative to Osterc, but his tricky, mobile style means he is less of a target man. As such, he is most likely to be used as a substitute. Rudonja can also move from midfield to play in attack.
From World Soccer magazine.