When Slovenia entertain San Marino this Wednesday, nothing less than all three points will do for the side spearheaded by striker Zlatko Dedic. After a decent start to qualifying for the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa™ with two wins and a draw, Matjaz Kek's men have rather lost their way.
Slovenia have taken just a solitary point from their last three games and have slipped to fifth in European qualifying Group 3. Nevertheless, the nation who last appeared at the global showcase event in 2002 still have everything to play for, as they lie only five points off second-placed Northern Ireland with a game in hand.
Dedic has appeared in all six of his country’s qualifiers so far, scoring once. Ahead of Slovenia’s meeting with the underdogs from San Marino, the marksman spoke to FIFA.com about his new club Bochum, his eight years in Italy and FIFA World Cup qualifying.
FIFA.com: Zlatko, you’ve been in Germany with your new club Bochum for a few weeks now. Are you settling in well?
Zlatko Dedic: Very well. I’m still in a hotel for now, but I’m sure I’ll find a nice place to live very soon. I like what I’ve seen of Bochum so far, especially the fact it’s so green here.
Before your switch to the Bundesliga this summer, you spent eight seasons in Italy. What are your memories of that time?
Italy will always be my second home. I went there at the age of 17, I completed my education there, and made lots of friends for life.
Most recently, you’ve been playing in Serie B. Has it been a difficult transition from the Italian second division to the German top flight?
There’s not much I can say to that as yet. Training in Germany is definitely harder and more intense than in Italy. The sessions are longer there, but it’s much more about tactics. That tends to mean a lot of standing around on the pitch listening to instructions from the coach.
What are your goals this season, both personally and with your new club?
My priority is to help the team. I’ve not done anything like set myself a target in terms of goals, especially as I’m a more of a provider than a poacher. As a club, we want to secure our top-flight status as quickly as we can.
Turning now to the national team, Slovenia have fallen to fifth in 2010 FIFA World Cup European qualifying Group 3. What’s your take on the campaign so far?
We started well with two wins and a draw, but the goals dried up for us after that. Slovakia seem to have got away at the top, but we can still finish second. If we beat San Marino, we’ll only be two points behind Northern Ireland. It’s a very tight group, and we still have everything to play for.
Your game against San Marino is on 12 August. You’ll be looking for three points, surely?
That's right. Anything less than victory would be a serious setback.
You’re a regular for the national team. How would you describe your role?
I’m a striker who likes to cover a lot of ground, opening up gaps for my team-mates as a result. I certainly know where the goal is myself, but my job is more to lay them on for the likes of [Milivoje] Novakovic.
After contesting the 2002 finals in Korea and Japan, 2010 would be Slovenia’s second shot at the FIFA World Cup trophy. What would a place at the finals mean to you personally, and to the nation as a whole?
An unbelievably huge amount. This is a football-mad nation and certainly deserving of a place at the World Cup. It would be a massive boost for the game in Slovenia.
The FIFA.com EMIRATES MatchCast
Don't forget, on Wednesday, the FIFA.com editorial team will be providing you with a live commentary of the day's proceedings; analysing which teams are moving closer to a place at the 2010 FIFA World Cup South Africa - and which teams are seeing their dreams slipping away.
There is also a section devoted to goal flashes - proving that FIFA.com has it on the net when it hits the net! Find out who has scored and where as the qualifying action unfolds. Log-on to Matchcast at 18:00 CET for the first games of the day!