Even before he kicks a ball in South Africa, Zlatko Dedic is guaranteed immortality in Slovenia for scoring the memorable goal that secured his nation’s place at the FIFA World Cup™. It was the flick of the Bochum striker’s right boot, diverting home a Valter Birsa cross just before half-time, that brought Russia to their knees and secured the unlikeliest of victories in a seemingly mismatched play-off.
This all-important strike also brought some richly-deserved personal recognition for a player who has tended to fill a supporting role for Slovenia, providing a bustling, tireless foil for the team’s star striker, Milivoje Novakovic. Dedic tends to play in a more withdrawn role than Novakovic, and this is reflected in the fact that the goal against Russia was only his third in 22 international appearances.
Despite this modest return, the 25-year-old’s energy and selflessness have established him as a firm favourite of Matjaz Kek and Slovenia’s supporters, and while not prolific, he has forged a reputation as a scorer of important goals. After all, his two international strikes prior to the play-off had come in Slovenia’s key home-and-away qualifying matches against Poland, with Dedic securing a vital point in Wroclaw before breaking the deadlock in a morale-boosting 3-0 home win.
The irony is that this Slovenian national hero was actually born in Bosnia, although it was in the Slovenian village of Podgorje, near Koper, that he spent the bulk of his childhood. FC Koper was a natural starting point, therefore, when Dedic began to show promise as a youngster, and he had only played three first team matches there before Italian side Parma, alerted to the then-17-year-old’s potential, brought him to Serie A.
Earmarked as one for the future, Dedic spent some time in I Ducali’s youth set-up before embarking on a couple of loan spells with Empoli and Cremonese, the latter of which proved especially successful. However, it was after only a handful of senior appearances for Parma that Dedic opted to leave in search of first-team football, signing for Serie B outfit Frosinone on a free transfer in January 2007.
Another loan spell followed, this time at Piacenza, where Dedic scored 10 times in 22 appearances and caught the eye with his industry and intelligence. Clubs from Italy and overseas were already monitoring his progress, and after he returned to enjoy another fine season with Frosinone in 2008/09, Bochum moved in to sign the Slovenian international on a three-year deal.
By this stage, Dedic was already established as a regular in his national team; indeed, he went on to play in all but one of their South Africa 2010 qualifiers. However, becoming a regular in the Bochum starting line-up has proved to be a surprisingly tough, with around half of his appearances for the Bundesliga side coming from the bench. Nevertheless, regardless of his fortunes at club level, Dedic’s energy, ability and propensity for rising to the occasion are sure to make him a key figure for Slovenia at South Africa 2010.