Winning Back Support
The Slovenian national football team is facing an uphill battle to qualify for the World Cup in 2016 and to win back the hearts of fans. Switzerland will pose the first test.
Ups and downs in football are probably more frequent than in any other sport. Since 2000, when Slovenia qualified for its first major tournament (Euro 2000), things have gone from heaven to hell and back at least three times. Only a little more two years ago, when Slovenia took part in the World Cup in South Africa, the team and management were on a high, enjoying success and support from their fans.
The beginning of the Euro 2012 qualifying campaign signalled the first signs of weakness. The then President, Ivan Simič, was more or less forced to resign and was replaced by Aleksander Čeferin, who is already on the receiving end of criticism from some circles. Results wise, things have taken a downward trend and Euro 2012 hopes were dashed after a string of disappointing performances. Cracks within the team began to appear, with two names sticking out: team captain, Robert Koren and striker, Milivoje Novaković, followed closely by coach, Matjaž Kek. Ultimately, the latter didn’t renew his contract and the former two, considered the pillars of the World Cup team, decided against participating in the new team being developed by new coach, Slaviša Stojanović.
For now, things are far from resolved. When Slovenia played a friendly match against Romania in August (winning 4-3) it was embarrassing to see only a handful of spectators at the Stožice stadium. On top of that, Maribor as the unofficial football capital and its pool of supporters believe that the national team should play its matches there.
Sporting success would very likely heal these wounds. The ingredients are definitely there, it only remains to be seen whether they will blend together as a team, which was the strongest attribute of the former winning team.
Slovenia will play World Cup qualifiers against Switzerland, Norway, Cyprus, Iceland and Albania. They will play the first match against Switzerland on 7 September in Ljubljana.
10 Nov 2011 / By Simon Demšar
07 Jul 2011 / By Simon Demšar
02 Jul 2010
11 Apr 2007 / By Jaimie Henderson
22 Jun 2005 / By Ales Golob
30 Sep 2004 / By Ales Golob