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Slovenia continue to impress under Katanec
Once again this remarkable nation of only 2 million inhabitants, which was part of Yugoslavia until 1991, has defied the odds, this time by qualifying for the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan.
Much of the credit for Slovenia's rise has to go to coach Srecko Katanec. His name translates as "lucky" but the team certainly does not rely on good fortune alone. Katanec believes in hard work, team spirit and solid defending and is understandably regarded as a hero in Slovenia.
Such has been Slovenia's rise to prominence under Katanec that by the end of the qualifying campaign, they had risen to 26th in the FIFA/Coca-Cola World rankings, an improvement of over 100 places from when the ranking system was introduced in 1993. The team which was a pleasant surprise at the UEFA European Championship Belgium/The Netherlands 2000 has come a long way since managing only one point in eight games during its qualifying campaign for the 1998 FIFA World Cup.
The nation's chances in the upper echelon of world football rest largely on the fitness and temperament of playmaker Zlatko Zahovic. Slovenia's much-admired number 10 is injury-prone and has a questionable attitude, a spat with Katanec leading to his benching for a friendly after EURO 2000.
Significant past players:
- First round UEFA European Championship Belgium/The Netherlands 2000
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