The Slovenian team has been remodelled and reinvigorated under national coach Matjaz Kek, who promoted several players from the Under-21 set-up and instilled a neat, disciplined style. With a population of only two million and a mere 30,000 registered footballers their qualification is all the more remarkable.
Slovenia failed to win any of their first five competitive games under Kek. The turnaround in fortunes came after the 1-0 qualifying defeat in Northern Ireland, after which they won their four remaining games, without conceding a goal. The subsequent play-off victory over heavily fancied Russia was described by Kek as "a fairytale ending from a Hollywood movie".
Aim: A first World Cup win - or even just a point - would be a start. They lost all three group matches on their only other appearance in 2002.
THREE KEY PLAYERS
ROBERT KOREN Former West Brom midfielder has been transformed into Slovenia's heartbeat since being appointed captain at the start of the World Cup qualifying campaign.
MILIVOJE NOVAKOVIC Cologne striker scored five goals in qualifying, and was outstanding as Slovenia shocked Russia in the play-offs. Rejected a move to Portsmouth last year.
SAMIR HANDANOVIC Standing 6ft 4in, the 25-year-old Udinese keeper has been described by Juventus and Italy keeper Gianluigi Buffon as one of the best in Italy. Kept six clean sheets in 10 World Cup qualifiers, and has been linked with Spurs and Bayern Munich.
MATJAZ KEK was an unpopular choice when he took over in January 2007, but achieved hero status by leading the country to the World Cup. He changed Slovenia's formation from a 3-4-1-2 to a short-passing 4-4-2.
ADOPT THEM BECAUSE...
Slovenia's tourist board is offering discounted holidays based on how far the national team progress this summer. Under the promotion, customers get a 25% refund if Slovenia reach the quarter finals, a 50% rebate if the team gets to the semi-finals and all of their money back if they win the tournament.
HOW THEY QUALIFIED
Slovenia's World Cup qualifying highlights
D 1-1 Poland (A) W 2-1 Slovakia (H) W 2-0 N Ireland (H) L 1-0 Czech Rep (A) D 0-0 Czech Rep (H) L 1-0 N Ireland (A) W 5-0 San Marino (H) W 3-0 Poland (H) W 2-0 Slovakia (A) W 3-0 San Marino (A) Finished second behind Slovakia
Play-off L 2-1 Russia (A) W 1-0 Russia (H)
WORLD CUP BEST
2002: Qualified for the first time but lost against Spain, South Africa and Paraguay and finished bottom of their group.
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