Kek: Slovenia can zip through at England's expense

PORT ELIZABETH - The country that gave the world the plastic zipper takes on the nation that invented football and few are discounting tiny Slovenia's chances of ending mighty England's World Cup crusade.

On paper, Wednesday's Group C clash reads like a David verses Goliath mismatch but performance tells a very different story with Slovenia perched atop the standings looking down on England, who will need a win over the upstart minnows to ensure they reach the next stage.

"I would like to point out England has to go through to the second round, Slovenia wishes to go to the second round," Slovenian coach Matjaz Kek told reporters on Tuesday after a brief workout.

"We are aware of the significance of tomorrow's match for both Slovenia and England: the stakes are very high.

"We have a very good starting point but we are aware we are playing a very strong team and this is why we need to gear up for this match.

"We are self-confident, we are courageous and we will be able to face up to England."


Slovenia arrived in South Africa with a negligible soccer pedigree and a population of just 2.06 million while England's can be traced back to the sport's very roots.

But Slovenia, who failed to reach the second round on their debut as an independent nation in 2002, lead the group on four points followed by the United States and England on two and Algeria, who play the U.S. in Pretoria on Wednesday, with one.

Uninspired efforts that resulted in draws with the U.S. and Algeria has put all the pressure squarely on England, according to Kek.

But playing the underdog role to the maximum, the Slovenian coach tipped England to not only advance but win the World Cup.

"The quality of England is clear," added Kek, apparently seriously. "For me England is still the favourite to win the World Cup at the very end.

"I already pointed out prior to the World Cup that England and the United States were sure to come to the second round.

"But we as sportsmen want to achieve a huge success and have shown in our matches that we can face anyone.

"Slovenia has shown a game that is of high quality and a game that has marked Group C."

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