The Slovenia Times

Slovenia head to Euro 2024 with defence in mind

The Slovenian squad in preparations for the Euro 2024. Photo: Katja Kodba/STA

The Slovenian men's football team is heading for Germany next week after wrapping up the training camp that saw a 2:1 victory against Armenia and a 1:1 draw with Bulgaria in friendly matches on 4 and 8 June, respectively. The 26-man roster has been finalised, with head coach Matjaž Kek opting for a slightly defensive-minded squad.

Slovenia defeated Armenia 2:1 in Stožice Stadium in Ljubljana in their penultimate warm-up match ahead of the 2024 Euro in what was the first official match ever between the two nations.

Head coach Matjaž Kek fielded a squad mostly featuring non-starters who had the opportunity to prove themselves and make the final roster for the tournament in Germany.

It was nevertheless the veteran Josip Iličić who brought the win for Slovenia with a goal in the 63rd minute, and Kek said that the victory was welcome as it created a positive atmosphere in the team.

He said the level of play on display had given him a lot of room to make corrections as Slovenia were nearing the last warm-up match against Bulgaria on 8 June.

"The fact that we did not play with some of the core players from the qualifiers cannot be an excuse for too many mistakes and delays in duels," he Kek said, noting that he missed a "killer" who would take advantage of opportunities for easy goals.

Before the 8 June fixture against Bulgaria Kek announced the final roster of 26 players for the Euro 2024. The last players to be cut were Matevž Vidovšek (Olimpija), Žan Zaletel (Viborg), Miha Zajc (Fenerbahce) and Luka Zahović (Pogon Szczecin).

"I had to settle for 26 players, which does not mean that those who are not travelling to the Euro will not be with us next time," Kek said, noting that Slovenia would be playing the UEFA Nations League matches as early as in September.

Even more spectators - more than 11,000 - came to see Slovenia play Bulgaria in Stožice Stadium on 8 June, with the match ending in a 1:1 draw.

Both goals came early, as Kiril Despodov scored for Bulgaria in the 4th minute with a penalty kick, and Andraž Šporar equalising the score with a header from the right side ten minutes later for his 11th goal for the national team.

Kek was somewhat critical after the match, saying he had the feeling that a "lot of players were only thinking how to 'survive'," and expressed concern about some of the players not being fully ready for a second match in a row.

Kek, who did not like what he saw when substitutions were made, as "six fresh players should have made a difference", added that he would be forced to make some changes if certain players were not able to train at the required level.

Slovenia will travel to Germany on 11 June, five days before they play their first match in Group C against Denmark in Stuttgart. Serbia follow on 20 June in Munich and England on 25 June in Cologne.

Kek said that there is also a "tactical plan" in the final decision on the roster, as Slovenia cannot go to the Euro with too much offence-oriented players, because "I reckon that we will probably not be attacking the teams we play for 90 minutes."

Slovenia's roster for the Euro 2024

Goalkeepers: Jan Oblak (Atletico Madrid), Vid Belec (APOEL), Igor Vekić (Vejle)

Defenders: Jure Balkovec (Alanyaspor), Jaka Bijol (Udinese), Miha Blažič (Lech Poznan), David Brekalo (Orlando City), Vanja Drkušić (Sochi), Erik Janža (Gornik Zabrze), Žan Karničnik (Celje), Petar Stojanović (Empoli)

Midfielders: Timi Max Elšnik (Olimpija), Adam Gnezda-Čerin (Panathinaikos), Jon Gorenc Stanković (Sturm), Tomi Horvat (Sturm), Jasmin Kurtić (Südtirol), Sandi Lovrić (Udinese), Benjamin Verbič (Panathinaikos), Adrian Zeljković (Spartak Trnava), Nino Žugelj (Bodo/Glimt)

Forwards: Žan Celar (Lugano), Josip Iličić (Maribor), Jan Mlakar (Pisa), Benjamin Šeško (Leipzig), Andraž Šporar (Panathinaikos), Žan Vipotnik (Bordeaux)


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