The 35-year-old key defender, who had played a hundred games for the national team, explained why he is leaving at a press conference in which he spoke before manager Tomaž Kavčič:
"The manager explained his decision at our last meeting. I would have wanted to keep playing for Slovenia, but I’ve accepted the decision, and life goes on. From Tuesday onward, I’ll be a loyal fan of the team, and I’m happy that I was a part of it for 15 years," said Cesar, who will open the match in Stožice and play for five minutes.
The game that he will remember the most fondly is the one that took Slovenia to the 2010 World Cup: "The one against Russia in Maribor. I’ll remember that one for the rest of my life." Which competitor would he face off against if he had the chance? "I’d choose Portugal. Because of Cristiano Ronaldo. I’ve never played against him."
Cesar has played for Chievo since 2010 and has no plans to retire: "I’d like to stay in the sport and play a few more years at this level." In the 28 rounds of Serie A this season, Cesar got the opportunity to play in only eight games. This calendar year, he played in only a single halftime.
In Klagenfurt on Friday, Tomaž Kavčič made his unsuccessful debut as the national team manager. Austria won with a score of 3:0. After the game, Slovenian fans, who had expected their team’s game to improve after the departure of Srečko Katanec, had more questions than answers. What went wrong? What are Slovenia’s biggest weaknesses according to Kavčič? “We gave up too many of our balls. The statistics show that we had 25 counterattacks. We were neither in the defense zone nor in the offense zone. We stayed in the midfield all the time; we didn’t have a good defense, and our offense wasn’t any batter. That was our biggest problem, and we need to work on that.”
The strategy will change. Kavčič didn’t want to provide any details at first, but he eventually revealed a part of his tactical approach: "I’ll try to team-up Birsa and Iličić. They’re quality players and they handle the ball well; I’ll also try out new center backs."
Kavčič believes that Rene Krhin and Kevin Kampl can also play well together. In addition to Jan Oblak, Tim Matavž will be absent from the team, while Benjamin Verbič has problems with his arm. Meanwhile, Kampl has had a mild cold for the past two days.
And what about Belarus? "They come from the tough Russian school. They are quick and powerful; they spend most of their time in their half of the field and they execute quick counter-attacks. We’ll have to be careful with that."