Bojar Prašnikar faces a real test of his mettle on Saturday. The man charged with the task of leading Slovenia to the EURO 2004™ finals in Portugal takes his team to France to face the reigning European champions in an eagerly awaited Group One qualifying encounter at the Stade de France.
Prašnikar, who replaced Srecko Katanec for his third spell as Slovenian national coach in July, has already ruffled the feathers of one major European team. Slovenia pulled off a fine 1-0 win over Italy in Trieste in September. Add to that a 3-0 success against Malta in last month's EURO 2004™ qualifying opener, and Prasnikar has made a fine start to life back at the helm.
When Slovenia was granted independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991, Prašnikar was the national team's first coach. He left in 1993, but returned to the position in 1997. However, he stepped down again only four months later to concentrate on commitments with Slovenian club NK Maribor.
Prašnikar has been combining the roles of Slovenia and Maribor coach since the summer, but will shortly be free to concentrate on the national team, who are looking to banish the memory of a disappointing FIFA World Cup in Korea/Japan. uefa.com caught up with Prašnikar as he settled into his new job.
uefa.com: Will you introduce a completely new approach, or will you continue where Srecko Katanec left off?
Bojar Prašnikar: First of all, what's good in the team will remain the same, and secondly the things that need changing will be changed. The fact is, however, that the Slovenian national team can get results, but it will be difficult to maintain that record without hard work.
uefa.com: Are you confident of restoring morale after the disappointing World Cup experience?
BP: Morale is a very important thing, and we have seen championships lost just because the morale of the team wasn't good. Morale played a very big part with Slovenia in the World Cup, but what happened, happened.
uefa.com: What are your personal and your team's expectations for the EURO 2004 qualifiers?
BP: For the EURO 2004 qualifiers, our main goal is to do everything we can to qualify, and our main focus will be on that.
uefa.com: Will you be making any tactical adjustments to the Slovenian team following the disappointment of Korea/Japan?
BP: My thoughts are that if a new player comes into the team, then things must be changed tactically.
uefa.com: How does a coach handle difficult players? Are you someone that accepts that challenge if a player is gifted, or do you prefer to do without gifted, but temperamental individuals?
BP: The main thing is for the player to have a positive character, and most of our players do have this kind of positive character.
uefa.com: Do you enjoy the strategy side of coaching, ie pitting your wits against the opposition coach?
BJ: That's a very good question, and my opinion is that I have my own tactical strategy that I always keep hidden from the opposition coaches.
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