“Estonia is not unknown to us.”
“We still remember the loss in Ljubljana.”
“We are going to get our revenge”
These are just a few of the quotes that can be read in Slovenian newspapers these days. The defeat by the Estonians in 2011 obviously still hurts them and all they think about is revenge. However, they all agree that a careful approach and full focus during the whole game will be needed if they are about to go back with the three points from Tallinn.
As expected, most attention is paid to Konstantin Vassiljev, the man who single-handedly took Estonia to the play-offs 3 years ago. He is also known to the Slovenian public having plied his trade in Nafta Lendava where he scored 16 goals in 124 games. They can, however, relax a bit as Estonia’s best player won’t be able to help his teammates tonight because of an injury.
Other players that catch the eye of the journalists in Slovenia are the captain Ragnar Klavan, who is also teammate of their forward Tim Matavz in Augsburg, Joel Lindpere, who is being praised for his games in New York as a teammate of Thierry Henry and later on in Chicago Fire, and Sergei Zenjov, who is considered to be the main danger towards Handanovic’s goal. They have more information about Zenjov from Gregor Balazic who played with him in Karpaty Lvov.
“We analyzed our opponent well and it definitely won’t be an easy match for us. Estonia has a compact team with a very competitive spirit that won’t give us a lot of space to create chances. We will try to answer them in the same fashion and then we can hope for a positive result,” says the Slovenian national team coach Srecko Katanec who has special respect for Estonian attackers. “The attackers are able to hold the ball, which was obvious in the match against Sweden. The Estonians are also very dangerous in the counter attacks, so we can’t afford to give them much space.”
The coach didn’t want to reveal the starting XI, but one player who will most probably feature from the first minute is the captain of the team and ChievoVerona player, Bostjan Cesar, who is also positive, but fully aware of the dangers they will face tonight at A. Le Coq Arena. „We know the stadium, we know the opponent. We are well prepared and everything depends on us. Every player that will get his chance must leave his heart on the pitch. We have always been known for our fighting spirit and we are here to present that once again.“ The 32-year old, who will play his 75th match for the national team (according to UEFA 78th) also said that they are facing physically tough team that doesn’t play pretty, but practical football.“It will be extremelly difficult to score against them, so we will try with sneaky accurate passes to find holes in their defensive line. It is important to win the first game of the qualifications so that we can continue in a positive spirit''.
The 22-year old Maribor midfielder Damjan Bohar got his first call in the national team and he is also cautious. „The first match is always the most difficult one. Especially when you play away. But I am not afraid, we are well prepared for the Estonians. I feel great being part of the team. We are ambitious and we always go for the win. We are playing for Slovenia and it is an honour to give 100%.“
A good start of the qualifications is vital for the Slovenians and everyone in the small country has faith in coach Katanec and his players to leave good impression and come back with the three points from Tallinn.