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".
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