Host nations have a knack of doing well in major international tournaments and Slovenia will be hoping this is the case when they kick-off the 2012 UEFA European Under-17 Championship next month.
Few of their squad have ever played a full international match and this has been because they have played hardly any games in the run-up to the tournament due to their automatic qualification.
Despite this, Slovenia have been working hard in recent months on their home soil and are definitely ready for the U17s finals from 4 to 16 May, for which the draw takes place in Ljubljana on Wednesday.
Miloš Kostič’s squad have played in their fair share of friendlies since the manager took over the squad back when they were under-16s. They have drawn with England and qualifiers for this tournament, France. They have also faced Poland twice and despite loosing the first encounter, they triumphed 2-0 in the second. Closer to date they have celebrated a 1-0 win over Albania but lost last month against Bosnia and Herzegovina by two goals to nil.
Kostič previously took charge of the under-19 national side who qualified for the 2009 European Championship finals in Ukraine. They managed to draw against the hosts but unfortunately lost their next two matches. “It is hard to judge our preparation at the moment as other teams had difficult matches in their elite round qualifiers, but we didn’t play,” he told Uefa.com.
I know that this group has a really big team spirit, probably even bigger then my former team which qualified for the European U19s. I don’t want to point out any particular player but I know that at least one or two players will be the rising stars of this tournament.”
He has a great squad of players going into this tournament though with Gregor Zabret and Adnan Golubovič between the sticks whilst Emir Dautovič commands the defence and Bian Paul Šauperl has proven to be a very useful striker in recent games. The sons of Slovenia legends Zlatko Zahovič and Mladen Rudonja are also included in the squad to give them some winning pedigree and possibly teach them some national pride. Luka Zahovič and Roy Rudonja will expect their respective fathers to be cheering them on from the stands in Maribor and Lendava during the group stage.
Slovenia’s biggest stadium holds the semi-final and this will be the side’s test of success. The ŠRC Stožice in Ljubljana is the goal and would be a proud moment if reached, to showcase some of Slovenian football’s brightest talents.