(This is Part I of IV of our Slovenia preview coverage)
Bob Bradley, “My overall assessment is that the pure speed and physicality of last night’s game (England)….that is probably on the very high end and the Slovenia game in some ways may be more of chess match.”
Take a deeper look at the tactics, teamwork and precision of the Slovenia team and Bob Bradley’s comments are unerring.
Here’s a few storylines to get us started as we march down to the Slovenia match:
• From Slovakia With Love
You’ll hear something very similar to the following from broadcasters over the next few days, “Slovenia shouldn’t be underestimated. They beat Guus Hiddink’s Russia in a playoff to get here.”
While the Russia win was quality, it did come against a Russian side that was down a man for nearly 40 minutes and down two men for stoppage time.
A better measuring stick that broadcasters should be keying on is the Green Dragons match that transpired the night the States clinched a World Cup trip in Honduras. Slovenia away at Slovakia.
Slovenia calmly went into Slovakia’s den–that’s right the same Slovakia who beat the U.S. 1-nil in November–and walked away with an impressive 2-0 win over a full-strength Slovakian team. The Slovenia attack, led by Robert Koren and Milivoje Novakovic, outplayed the classy triumvirate of Martin Sestak, Marek Hamsik and Vladamir “Jonathan Bornstein is in my pocket” Weiss.”
If you’ve been watching a lot of World Cup, then those last three names are quite household.
In that game, Slovenia scored on a hell of a boombasa (see here) for their first goal and–roll tape below–took a page from the Yankee playbook with a gorgeous counterattack goal. Make sure to press play and watch because TSG will be talking more about the counterattack shortly.
• Milivoje Novakovic is legit
Novakovic, who does his club work at Cologne, is a true goal scorer. He’s a striker in the mold of John Carew, able to score if given space to strike and he’s a clear threat in the air.
Novakovic has netted 16 times in 38 games for his national side. At 31, Novakovic seems to be now coming into his own. He’s goes into the Cup with five tallies in qualifying to lead the team.
Oguchi Onyewu will be tested…again.
• The defense can’t be heralded enough
What do you get when you combine an average front 6 goals through their World Cup seeking run. You get a defense that is downright stingy.
Do yourself a favor, waltz on over to ESPN3 to watch the Algeria game. One of the things that impresses me most about Slovenia is how they move collectively as a team on the backline–a page the Yanks should frankly borrow. It’s absolutely amazing to watch how each player knows their role.
For Slovenia, Grenoble’s Bostjan Cesar is Slovenia’s “Onyewu” to Marko Suler’s “Jay DeMerit.” If you do watch the game, it’s, well beautiful, how Suler always tracks to the faster attacker while Cesar fills. Just beautiful technical defense.
For the Yanks to get through, they’ll need the creativity–as we discussed in Sunday Rewind–that was lacking in the front.
With a cohesive back four and plastic man keeper Samir Handanovic– think a more nimble Heurelho Gomes but without the head case–this is not a team you want to fall behind.
If the Yanks’ pull “an England,” allowing Slovenia to stack the box, it could be a very frustrating day for them.
Up next: Tactical Preview with Tuesday.