A goalscorer at his home-town Stadion Ljudski vrt in Maribor on Friday, Luka Zahovič was nevertheless left to reflect on a bittersweet game against the Netherlands.
A crowd of over 8,000 turned up to support the hosts in their opening Group B encounter, but the holders proved too good and eventually ran out 3-1 winners. Three down after an hour, Slovenia did at least take consolation from substitute Zahovič's late strike.
"It was a very good moment," said the NK Maribor youngster, son of former Slovenian international Zlatko Zahovič. "It was probably the most intense game I've ever played in. It was amazing because this is my home town and I've always dreamt of playing in this stadium. I'm very happy about the goal but I would exchange it for three points."
Zahovič’s captain, Sven Dodlek, echoed those sentiments, ruing his team's failure to give the supporters the victory they yearned for. "We wanted to give this present to the home crowd and whole of the country that is behind us," he said. "We wanted to show we know how to play football, but it just didn't click for us. It didn't work out but with our heads held up high we will go to pick up three points in the next match."
The local media spotlight has been firmly fixed on Miloš Kostič's team since a throng of television and print journalists turned up for the Group pre-tournament press conference. Zahovič and his team-mates, though, are attempting to take it in their stride. "There's a great atmosphere in our team and like every squad we've got our jokers and we've got our more serious guys," he said. "We play a lot of ping-pong, we hang out a lot and we are staying near the hills so we take walks – we are just really enjoying ourselves.
"We're not used to the media attention but it's good for the country and it's good for Slovenian football. I hope that somehow this will help to bring Slovenian football to another level. Even though there's a lot of coverage of our team during this tournament, our staff keep reminding us to keep a cool head. We weren't expecting so many people before the match. It was very special for us but we're sorry we couldn't get a win for them."
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