Slovenia skipper warns England

  • By: Jamie Gardner, Press Association Sport, Johannesburg
  • Last Updated: June 19 2010, 13:44 BST

Slovenia captain Robert Koren claims his team had not properly prepared to face England when they ran Fabio Capello's men close in a friendly last autumn, and warned it will be a different story in Port Elizabeth on Wednesday.

Robert Koren - warning England.

England must beat Slovenia to assure them a place in the last 16 of the World Cup, while Koren's men need only a point to confirm their progress from Group C.

The sides' only previous meeting came in a friendly at Wembley last September, which England won 2-1 but only after Swedish referee Jonas Eriksson had awarded a dubious penalty as Wayne Rooney and Bostjan Cesar tugged each other's shirts in the box.

England's second goal also owed much to fortune as a Jermain Defoe shot took a heavy deflection off Slovenia midfielder Aleksandar Radosavljevic before finding the net.

Zlatan Ljubijankic, the scorer of Slovenia's second goal against the United States on Friday, pulled one back against England with a diving header, and Koren insisted the sole purpose of the Wembley game was for Slovenia to find their form before a World Cup qualifier against Poland four days later.

He said: "We didn't really prepare for that game and we still gave them a really good game. They were lucky in that game to get a result, the referee was up and down when we played them at Wembley.

"It will not be about revenge for us on Wednesday, it was a while ago since we played them. It was completely different, because we were just preparing for a game in the qualification group, we didn't think too much about the England game.

"But we're not thinking about that game, it is already behind us. This is a new opportunity for us and we will be up for it."

Koren and Co were certainly up for it in the first 45 minutes of their match against the United States, racing into a 2-0 interval lead with playmaker Valter Birsa particularly outstanding.

They were eight minutes away from securing a last 16 place when Michael Bradley made it 2-2, and survived a late scare when a Maurice Edu goal for the Americans was disallowed for a mystery foul.

Former West Brom midfielder Koren added: "In the first half we played really well, we got two goals and the game looked easy for us. Still in the second half we were in control and I think we were disappointed in the USA, they didn't show too much good football - it was lucky for them to score two goals.

"The England game is a different story, but we will go through the (USA) game and see where we were not good enough and try to do better against England.

"Like all the games at the World Cup it will be a hard game but we are full of confidence to get the three points."

Slovenia have every right to be confident against England - within the space of eight months they have eliminated a Russia side which finished as semi-finalists at Euro 2008 in a World Cup qualification play-off and come close to beating a decent American team here in South Africa.

They demonstrated against the US that they can cope with sides who rely heavily on mentality and physicality and Koren expects them to be able to match England in every area and would not single out any individuals who they will need to pay special attention to.

"Of course, you expect every game to be hard," he said.

"It was a hard game against the US, they tried to play aggressive and strong football but we coped with this really well and I think we deserved the three points more than them.

"There is nobody in particular we will have to watch out for when we play England; we will play team against team, 11 against 11, the game starts at zero. We are full of confidence because we have four points so far, we are not worried."

England, with two points and just one goal so far, might just be worried.