The Slovenia Times

Goodbye,Golden Generation!



Many international stars turned out to play - Robert Prosinecki, who starred for Crvena Zvezda, Barcelona and Real Madrid among others, scored a great goal, the game's only goal in fact, from 25 metres out. The UNICEF All Stars won 1:0, but the result wasn't the aim of this match. The 6,000 spectators who enjoyed the game were there to say their last goodbyes to the players that gave Slovenia so many memorable moments from 1998 to 2002. Slovenia played its first official match on 11th November 1992 in Larnaca against Cyprus. The game was drawn (1:1) with Vlado Milosevic scoring the first goal for independent Slovenia. The qualifying rounds for the 1996 European Championships and 1998 World Cup were a disaster. Coach Zdenko Verdenik's defensive game plan was unsuccessful at this level. Srecko Katanec was the man who would lead Slovenia to glory, after replacing Verdenik in August 1998. The former Sampdoria Genoa and Vfb Stuttgart defender lacked coaching experience, but had a terrific feel for the game. The Slovenian team began to play very well and qualified for EURO 2000. In the playoff match, Slovenia defeated Ukraine 3:2 on aggregate. Milenko Acimovic scored an unbelievable goal from 50 metres out in the first game in Ljubljana (2:1); Miran Pavlin was the hero in the return leg (1:1). EURO 2000, which was held jointly by the Netherlands and Belgium, began with a memorable match against Yugoslavia. Slovenia was up 3:0 after 60 minutes and despite losing Sinisa Mihajlovic to a red card, Yugoslavia still managed to fight their way back with just 10 men to level the scores (3:3). Almost 12,000 Slovenian fans then turned up at the Arena in Amsterdam to support the team against Spain. Zlatko Zahovic scored for Slovenia, but it wasn't enough and the Spaniards won 2:1. Slovenia failed to qualify for the quarterfinals, but nonetheless played some great football along the way and managed to arouse national spirit. Their success continued in the qualifying rounds of the 2002 World Cup. In the playoff match, Slovenia beat Romania 2:1 at home and the return leg finished 1:1. In Ljubljana, Milan Osterc scored a wonderful goal with a volley reminiscent of the legendary Marco van Basten's goal against the Soviet Union in the 1988 European Championship final in Munich. In Bucharest, Mladen Rudonja booked the team a spot in the finals by scoring his first and only goal for the national team - in his 53rd game no less. The World Cup in South Korea ended with three straight defeats, but it was the conflict between coach Katanec and the team's star player Zahovic that ended up making headlines. They had never managed to get along very well but the stinging assault launched by Zahovic on Katenec following Slovenia's 1:3 loss to Spain led to a very untimely and acrimonious parting of ways. Katanec resigned after the tournament. Slovenia did not manage to qualify for Euro 2004 in Portugal and after the team was beaten by Croatia (1:0), many of the players chose to hang up their boots. But they gathered one last time on 18th June for an evening full of memories. Robert Jarni, Zvonimir Soldo, Robert Prosinecki, Predrag Mijatovic and many other international stars came to Ljubljana to play in the invitational charity match. The only man missing was the coach, Srecko Katanec, who was on holidays in Miami. He claims that his coaching career is not over yet and many ardent football fans want him back.


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