Slovenia ventured into 2024 with a victory: Kek’s experiment succeeded, and in Texas, the increasingly hot Nejc Gradišar scored for the celebration
At Toyota Fields stadium in San Antonio, Texas, Slovenia played its first match of the year, anticipating its appearance in a major tournament. However, the players on the field in the United States of America will largely not be part of Euro 2024. Nevertheless, coach Matjaž Kek gave them a chance to prove themselves in an unofficial match. Who seized the opportunity and who did not will undoubtedly be interesting to see, but the fact is that the Maribor native can be satisfied. Slovenia, starting with Vekić, Kuzmić, Zec, Zaletel, Karničnik, Svetlin, Repas, Zeljković, Elšnik, Šturm, Gradišar, won the friendly match 1:0.
Slovenia took the lead in the 26th minute when Danijel Šturm did the crucial work in the midfield. The Domžale player “pressed closely” against the home defender, who had the ball at his feet but succumbed to the pressure. Šturm gained possession of the ball and then passed it into space. Nejc Gradišar reached the ball, started towards the goal from the left side, and then expertly struck with the outside of his right foot, sending the ball past Patrick Schulte for a goal. The Rogaška striker once again confirmed that he is in excellent form lately, being the second-highest scorer in the Prva liga Telemach…
Goal: Nejc Gradišar | 🇺🇸 USA 0-1 Slovenia 🇸🇮 pic.twitter.com/0fcpNJHLgf
— FootColic ⚽️ (@FootColic) January 20, 2024
Shortly after Slovenia’s goal, the home team also posed a serious threat, but after a beautiful play on the left wing, a pass in front of goal, and a shot by Bernard Kamungu (who lost the ball in the middle of the field for the first goal), Igor Vekić proved more than capable. The Slovenian goalkeeper did not allow himself to be surprised by the low shot, making a beautiful save with his foot.
Although the Americans had much more possession in the first half (65:35), Slovenia was, truth be told, more dangerous, ultimately having more shots on target (2:1) than the home team. Nevertheless, the score did not change until halftime, and Slovenia went to the locker room with a minimal lead.
In the second half, the Americans entered the game more spirited than their opponents. Igor Vekić was tested several times but did not allow himself to be beaten. Possession of the ball was slightly more in favor of the hosts, and if we said that the equalizing goal was hanging in the air, no one should blame us too much. Nevertheless, the Slovenians were disciplined and focused; the players executed the tactical ideas of coach Kek very well. In the second half, Kek made some substitutions, including bringing in Andres Vombergar.
Slovenia could have increased the lead in the 70th minute when a corner kick resulted in a first-time shot by substitute Mitja Ilenič. The player, who currently plays in the USA, did not aim poorly, but still too much towards the goalkeeper for him not to make a save. Four minutes later, the guests should have been awarded a penalty: the referee, to the surprise of many, awarded a foul and a free-kick, but the fact is that the contact occurred in the penalty area. So, if he had already blown the whistle, he should have pointed to the penalty spot. That did not happen, and Slovenia only got a free-kick, which, despite the lively play, the impressive Danijel Šturm failed to convert.
At the end of the game, Slovenia also had some luck. The Americans pressed again and had three or four promising opportunities. The best chance was wasted by Joe Tolkin, who had the ball for the equalizer but missed from an excellent position to score. The score remained unchanged until the end of the game, and Slovenia secured a victory, indicating that Matjaž Kek has quite a few high-quality players at his disposal, in addition to those who earned a place in Euro 2024…
This text was automatically translated using AI.