Coach since January 2007
This one-time under-16 national coach knows his players inside out and earns a high level of trust. As a player, this defender started at his home team of Maribor before moving to Austria, came back to Maribor to win three league titles – then two as coach.
3 caps (0 goals)
The cousin of first-choice keeper Samir, he was a late bloomer after spending many years as an understudy to different keepers at Olimpija Ljubljana. He came close to ending his career and started working as a barkeeper but surprisingly came on leaps and bounds at Koper. His consistent form enabled a move to Italy, where he has developed further. He is a real presence in the box but sometimes a bit slow to react.
38 caps (0 goals)
Many believe Handanovic is already the best goalkeeper Slovenia has ever produced. He moved to Italy at an early age and developed through loans in Serie B until clinching the number one spot at Udinese. An explosive shot-stopper, he also handles one-on-one situations with assurity. His command of the area can at times be problematic, as can his handling of crosses.
Sparta Rotterdam (Hol)
1 cap (0 goals)
An explosive keeper who relies on his reflexes, Seliga is also good with his feet. He waited a long time to get his chance to move abroad. His first move outside Slovenia was to Slavia Prague but things didn’t work out and he warmed the bench for most of the time. Now Seliga is at Sparta Rotterdam, where he is a consistent number one.
30 caps (0 goals)
The full-back left Slovenia as a teenager and has assimilated well in Germany. Brecko is a player who can cover several positions. He is strongest at right-back, but can play on the left and on both flanks in midfield. Brecko has good crossing ability and has been involved in a lot of Slovenia’s goals in recent matches. He is an intelligent defender as well and can resolve situations of numerical inferiority with good composure in his decision-making.
41 caps (3goals)
As a left-footed centre-back, Cesar had many admirers from an early age. After his big money move from Dinamo Zagreb to Marseille, he has never developed to a level everyone expected him to reacch. A strong defender with good heading ability, also dangerous at attacking set-pieces, Cesar is the most consistent Slovenian defender of the current generation, but can be guilty of lapses in concentration at times. His temper is also something that opponents could target.
1 cap (0 goals)
Defender who forced himself into contention after a solid season with NK Maribor.
14 caps (0 goal)
Once of Barnsley, although lasted just five weeks before returning to his homeland with NK Maribor.
Lokomotiv Moscow (Rus)
36 caps (0 goals)
Once a midfielder in his younger days, Ilic was moved to central defence by Branko Oblak when he broke through the ranks at Olimpija Ljubljana. He later moved to the flank and has built his career abroad as a full-back. Ilic has good technical ability but can play himself into trouble. Can also be a victim of a lack of concentration at times.
33 caps (1 goal)
This energetic full-back has found football in France somewhat difficult and has made the best of a loan move from Sochaux to to Italian side Chievo in January. His defensive skills are good and he has got pace, but Jokic sometimes disappointed when going forward. He could do with a better standard of crossing.
32 caps (1 goal)
Mavric has been in and out of the national squad in all his time as an international, but has never complained – he was guilty of some awful mistakes as a first-choice centre back in the Euro 2008 qualifiers. Nowadays he is a reliable cover who can also play at right back when necessary. Good in the air and an impressive presence in defence.
16 caps (2 goals)
Suler has blossomed in Belgium in the last two seasons after learning his trade in Austria. Off the pitch, he is known to be a very intelligent guy – on it, he can sometimes lose concentration and commit awful errors in costly situations. Otherwise, Suler is quick and quite a technical central defender.
Wisla Krakow (Pol)
25 caps (2 goal)
A hard-working winger, Kirm has waited a long time to find the right foreign club. After rejecting several offers, he has established himself at Poland’s Wisla Krakow. He has got bags of pace but could do with a bit more technique. Slovene coach Kek highly values Kirm because of his constant running. A real team player, indispensable at left midfield.
Maccabi Tel Aviv (Isr)
40 caps (0 goal)
Komac is a midfield battler who can play as a right-back and as a right winger when needed. He has got lots of pace, aggression and is a good tackler, but lacks enough technique to be a threat in attacking play. All the same, he’s got a mean right foot all and can be a threat from corners and free-kicks from long range.
West Bromwich Albion (Eng)
45 caps (4 goal)
Koren has become quite a controversial figure in Slovenia in recent years. Two seasons ago, he refused to play in friendlies for the national team because he was chasing promotion to the Premier League with West Brom – yet when he came back coach Matjaz Kek made him captain, despite two angry words between the two in the media. He was also the team spokesman when a big public confrontation broke out between the players and the FA president Ivan Simic regarding player bonuses over the winter. Koren has certainly shone under Kek. Moved into a more classical central midfield role, he looks stronger than as an attacking midfielder. He lacks the technical quality to produce the final ball at times, but his fighting spirit and good leadership have become essential assets.
3 caps (0 goal)
Krhin moved to Inter Milan from Maribor when he was just 16 and is on the verge of the first team this season. Has been praised on several occasions for his ability and personality by Jose Mourinho. Krhin is a defensive midfielder who is secure on the ball and strong in possession. A good aggressive player, he is considered to be the future captain of the national team. Still too inexperienced to be a first team member at the moment.
Tom Tomsk (Rus)
14 caps (1 goal)
Radosavljevic is considered a water carrier in midfield who can play a bit as well. He made his debut back in 2002 but was later not called up for a long period. He grabbed his chance in the second-half of the qualification process and is now a first-team regular. Capable of dictating tempo in the middle, but can dwell on the ball too much at times for coach Kek’s liking.
12 caps (2 goal)
Sisic is a flair player with his own bag of tricks, and a shot in the arm for a side after making his debut two years ago when still at Olympiacos. He later fell out of favour in Pireaus, moved to Red Star Belgrade but received no salary and was out of the game for six months. He is now slowly getting back to his best – although has been accused by coach Kek of being too selfish. The manager likes his players to buckle down and work for the team. Sisic is now considered to be more of an impact player for the second half, when he can surprise any opponent with his dribbling. Can play on either flank in midfield.
Vitesse Arnhem (Hol)
15 caps (1 goal)
Once, Stevanovic was the most admired player in Slovenia. He moved for a seven-figure transfer fee from Domzale to Real Sociedad in 2006, but was ravaged by injuries and lack of form in the last few seasons. Has found again his feet at Vitesse lately though. He is a technically gifted attacking midfielder, a good finisher, but a bit lethargic at times. These days, considered good substitute at best.
Omonia Nicosia (Cyp)
37 caps (1 goal)
A veteran of the national team, Zlogar is the last of the generation that took Slovenia to Euro 2000 and World Cup 2002. He rarely plays these days, but is considered part of the team because of his personality. A law-school graduate, Zlogar is a defensive midfielder with good tackling and heading ability, but too slow to be considered for the big scene. Has also played as a striker, attacking midfielder and centre-back during his career. He refused to move abroad in his younger days because he wanted to finish his education.
33 caps (2 goal)
Birsa has long been touted as the next big thing in Slovenia. He made his first-team debut at Gorica when only 17 but he stagnated at Sochaux after a good first season. Now at Auxerre, he has found his form once more. In the past, he was moved between attack and attacking midfield but has found his feet in France as an inside forward. He operates on the right-hand side and puts crosses in with a sweet left foot, which is exactly how he provided Zlatko Dedic with his goal against Russia that took Slovenia to the World Cup. A gifted player who can tire in the second half and can at times drift in and out of games.
37 caps (14 goals)
The top scorer of his generation is an indispensable member of the squad. He is an important leader on and off the field, a great finisher who links up well in attacking play and can provide chances too. He has showed several times what the national team means to him, as his disagreements with the 1FC Koln hierarchy have become public in Slovenia. He was even stripped of his captaincy after refusing to come back immediately after Slovenia qualified for the World Cup. He never played in top-flight football in Slovenia but had to make his way through the lower leagues in Austria, later played in Bulgaria before he arrived in Cologne.
23 caps (3 goals)
Born in Bosnia but moved to Slovenia at an early age and became a national hero when he scored the decisive goal against Russia that took Slovenia to South Africa. Lost the tip of his middle finger in a go-karting accident, with a centimetre of it having to be sewn back on. An outgoing personality make him a media darling, while his fighting spirit has endeared him to fans. He is a restless runner, but lacks a bit in the skill department.
7 caps (2 goals)
Pecnik is a powerful, technical striker who has become important after moving to Portugal prior to the current season. He scored the all-important away goal in Moscow in the qualifying play-offs. Pecnik is strong on the ball and can play in midfield as well, centrally or on the wing. He is a big Real Madrid fan who wants to play in Spain and once famously claimed: ‘I would love to play for Real, but would not mind playing at some smaller club in Spain… at Barcelona, for instance’.
16 caps (4 goals)
A powerful forward who offers competition for Dedic when fighting to make the starting XI, Ljubljankic has suffered injuries in his career but overcame them all. He is a pleasant guy who has improved through the years and is now a regular at Gent. Not the most natural finisher, but is a physical presence in attack and can play a bit as well.
0 caps (0 goals)
Surprise inclusion in the World Cup squad. The 21-year old has score ten times in the Eredivisie this season and is giving Kek food for thought. Signed a five-year contract with Groningen when only 18.