Facts & figures: Slovenia

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Factbox on World Cup qualifiers Slovenia: World Cup record:

Previous appearances in finals: One

Best performance: group stage 2002

Coach: Matjaz Kek, played for Slovenian side Maribor and Austrian team GAK Graz. Won two league titles with Maribor as manager and coached the Slovenian under-16 side before taking over the first team in 2007. Failed to qualify for Euro 2008 and then won the hearts of Slovenia's fans by steering them to the 2010 World Cup finals. Has brought the best out of a modest squad after instilling discipline and the fighting spirit that saw them through.

Key players:

Milivoje Novakovic (Cologne). Age: 30. Forward

Slovenia's top scorer in qualifying with five goals. A robust striker who was his club's top scorer in the 2008-09 season with 16 goals. He also led Cologne's scoring chart in the 2007-08 season in the German second division, steering them back into the top flight. Has plenty of pace and is a clinical finisher who seems to be at the peak of his powers.

Samir Handanovic (Udinese). Age: 25. Goalkeeper

One of Europe's most promising goalkeepers who deserves the lion's share of the credit for Slovenia's progress, having impressed throughout the qualifiers. Was loaned to Lazio, Treviso and Rimini after signing for Udinese in 2004 but has established himself as the first-choice goalkeeper after returning to the Italian first-division side in 2007.

Zlatko Dedic (Vfl Bochum). Age: 25. Forward

The Bosnian-born Dedic scored the goal that put Slovenia through to the World Cup finals. Moved to his present German Bundesliga club after an eight-year spell with clubs in Italy, starting with his 2001 move from Slovenian outfit Domzale to Parma. Also scored in both group-stage qualifiers against Poland.

FIFA world ranking November 2009: 33rd

How they qualified: Pulled off the shock of Europe's two-legged play-offs when they beat Russia on away goals, thanks to a 1-0 home win in the return leg after hauling themselves back into the tie in the dying minutes of a 2-1 first-leg defeat in Moscow. Slovenia had finished behind Slovakia in a tight European Group Three, and above the more-heralded Poland, and Czech Republic as well as Northern Ireland.

Prospects: Slovenia are a fit, disciplined and well-drilled side but lack flair and talent and will need to play above their usual standard to get past the group stage. Could be a stumbling block for a better-ranked team in the group stage.