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Slovenia U17 'stars' tipped to shine

Published: Tuesday 3 April 2012, 12.20CET
Hosts Slovenia discover their Under-17 finals opponents when the draw is made on Wednesday and coach Miloš Kostič says his squad contains some "rising stars" to watch in May.
by Rok Šinkovc
from Ljubljana
Slovenia U17 'stars' tipped to shine
Slovenia drew with France last year ©NZS
Published: Tuesday 3 April 2012, 12.20CET

Slovenia U17 'stars' tipped to shine

Hosts Slovenia discover their Under-17 finals opponents when the draw is made on Wednesday and coach Miloš Kostič says his squad contains some "rising stars" to watch in May.

Any hosts of a final tournament face the same problem – making up for a lack of games due to automatic qualification.

I know that this group has a really big team spirit, probably even bigger then my former team which qualified for the European U19s
Miloš Kostič, Slovenia Under-17 coach

This is especially the case for the UEFA European Under-17 Championship, given that few of the squad will have ever played a competitive international before. And this is what Slovenia have been working on in recent months as they ready themselves for the U17s finals on home soil from 4 to 16 May, for which the draw takes place in Ljubljana on Wednesday.

Miloš Kostič's squad have played plenty of friendlies since he took them over as U16s, and last season they drew with England and eventual U17 qualifiers France. They faced another qualified team, Poland, twice losing 1-0 at home before turning the tables with a 2-0 victory. More recently there was a 1-0 win and 1-1 draw with Albania before last month's 2-0 home defeat of Bosnia and Herzegovina.

Kostič was previously in charge of the Slovenia side who qualified for the 2009 European U19 finals in Ukraine, where they held the hosts but lost their next two matches. He is hopeful of success this time round. "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 said.

"But 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 is lucky to have two good goalkeepers, Gregor Zabret and Adnan Golubovič, while the tall Emir Dautovič marshals the defence and Bian Paul Šauperl has been very effective up front in recent games. There is also pedigree in the squad in the shape of the sons of Zlatko Zahovič and Mladen Rudonja, both members of a strong Slovenia national side of a decade ago – and Luka Zahovič and Roy Rudonja can expect to see their fathers cheering them on in their group games in Maribor and Lendava.

Success will mean getting to the semi-finals, to be played at Slovenia's biggest stadium, the ŠRC Stožice in Ljubljana. This would be the squad's first opportunity to play in the capital, and what better time to start?

Last updated: 03/04/12 12.20CET

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