International Friendly: New Zealand vs. Slovenia
Venue: Ljudski Stadium, Maribor, Slovenia
Kick off: Friday 4th May 5:45pm(GMT)
Threat of injury worries Herbert
All Whites coach Ricki Herbert is expected to name the same starting line up that beat Serbia 1-0 last week. Although with his preferred first team now decided, Herbert is not expected to risk his star players for a full 90 minutes as the World Cup just around the corner:
“What I will probably consider is players not being on the pitch for so long. The team named to play Slovenia may be on the pitch for 20 to 30 minutes only.”
This should give his new look starting 11 much needed game time before the tournament starts next week, with Winston Reid and Tommy Smith only recently forcing their way into the first team after a few impressive performances from the bench.
“When you look at it, they’ve played one game together, so if we think they are going to play against Slovenia then they will need more time.”
With Tim Brown a major doubt for the tournament after injuring his shoulder – he has until June 10th to prove his fitness, the only other injury concern is that of striker Chris Killen. Killen missed the game against Serbia to attend his own wedding, however he may have over done it on his wedding night as he picked up a calf strain in training not long after his return, allowing teenage sticker Chris Wood another crack in the starting line up.
Killen though, is expected to be fit for their next friendly against Chile in South Africa on June 9th.
Beautiful football our top priority
Slovenia, the smallest nation at this years finals yet ranked 25th in the world (New Zealand 78th), will be trying to impress more than just their coach when they take to the field on Friday against the All Whites (Saturday 5th May 06:45am NZT). According to their coach they will be playing this game, and indeed the whole tournament, not to win matches, but to win the hearts of the world by playing attractive football.
By their manager Matjaz Kek’s own admission, winning any of their games will come a distant second to being recognised as a nation who embraces the finer sides of the beautiful game:
“As far as I am concerned, we can lose all three group matches as long as we play entertaining football to please the crowds and get them on their feet. Playing a destructive game with 10 men behind the ball is not my philosophy”
That should come as a welcome relief to All Whites Coach Herbert, who saw his last two friendlies marred by horror tackles and over the top crowd trouble which threatened to end the game.
One To Watch:
Slovenia have less house hold names than Serbia, however as their ranking suggests, they are not to be taken likely. With their defence conceding only 4 goals during qualifying, they also have reason to be optimistic at the other end of the pitch with one of their strikers in fine goal scoring form. Milivoje Novakovic, the 6ft 4in Cologne centre forward, scored 16 goals in Bundesliga last season, as well as bagging 4 for his national side during qualifying.
The 31yr old may have only scored 14 goals for his country, but he is rated as their best player since Valencia’s attacking midfielder Zlatko Zahovic who scored 35 for Slovenia, and internationally retired in 2004.