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Saturday, 1 June, 2002, 17:50 GMT 18:50 UK
Slovenia given hope by Senegal
The Slovenian national team in training in Seogwipo in South Korea
Slovenia are playing in their first ever World Cup
Gwangju | Sun 2 June | 1230 BST
Group B
Live on BBC One

Slovenia will be drawing inspiration from Senegal's victory over France as they embark on their first World Cup adventure.

Slovenia, a tiny alpine nation that broke away from Yugoslavia in 1991, is the smallest country ever to make the finals.

And after watching fellow debutants Senegal beat the world champions 1-0 in the opening match, Slovenian midfielder Zlatko Zahovic is confident of similar shocks.

"It's excellent, just excellent for the small teams," said Zahovic.

Open Quote
Coach Katanec keeps telling them there's no pressure and they've won just by qualifying
Close Quote
Slovenia official Rok Sinkovc
"If France were beaten by Senegal, we can expect more surprises."

Slovenia begin their campaign against Spain in Gwangju on Sunday.

Spain are favourites to win Group B ahead of Slovenia, Paraguay or South Africa.

But all the sides will have Senegal on their minds as they attempt to qualify for the quarter-finals.

And Slovenia coach Srecko Katanec will build his players up to believe nothing is impossible.

"He keeps telling them there's no pressure and they've won just by qualifying," said Slovenia team spokesman Rok Sinkovc.

"It's just in their heads that they have nothing to lose and are at their best in the toughest matches."

Slovenia is a country of two million people of which there are only 372 registered professional footballers.

They played their first international only 10 years ago next Monday, drawing 1-1 against Estonia in Tallinn.

The team failed to qualify for the World Cup in France in 1998 but a new era was ushered in with the appointment of the youthful Katanec as coach.

Katanec - who took over aged 35 - was an accomplished player from Europe's major leagues with 31 caps for Yugoslavia and five for newly independent Slovenia.

He guided them to the Euro 2000 championships where they drew with Yugoslavia and Norway and lost 2-1 to Sunday's opponents Spain.

And Slovenia were unbeaten in 12 matches in their World Cup qualification, including wins against Russia, Switzerland and Romania.

The difference, according to Sinkovc, is Katanec's vigour, experience and motivational ability.

"There are two eras in soccer in Slovenia, before Katanec and after Katanec," said Sinkovc.


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 SQUAD PROFILES
GROUP B
  P GD PTS
SPAIN 3 +5 9
PARAGUAY 3 0 4
SOUTH AFRICA 3 0 4
SLOVENIA 3 -5 0




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