Russia won the match with 2:0, but the sold out Stožice Arena did reward Slovenia’a efforts with a standing ovation, even though the team did not manage to repeat the feats of Croatia and Serbia, who as hosts at the 2012 and 2016 tournaments both made it to the semi-finals.
"We were short of sports luck. We kept it goalless for 27 minutes against the Russians, but then sadly conceded an unlucky first goal from a counter-attack. There may have even been a foul earlier on one of our players on their side of the half. And despite being a goal down we continued fighting and had two, three great chances when we played with an empty goal. Sadly, we didn’t make it. But we are leaving the tournament with are heads held high," said team captain Igor Osredkar.
A bigger selection of quality players
In the group stage Russia did not play its best and drew 1:1 twice, with Poland and Kazakhstan. They seemed fresher going into the match against Slovenia, which played difficult matched against Serbia and Italy with a limited number of players. "They surely took advantage of the situation, as they played tactically and saved some of their energy. They have a bigger selection of quality players than Serbia or Italy, they dictate a high-paced game and put pressure on the opponent. But despite that they didn’t outplay us, we fell honorably and I’m proud of the whole team and thankful to our excellent fans. If we had taken the lead first, and we did have one really nice chance, the match might have taken a different direction," said Osredkar.
Coach Dobovičnik opted for a different tactic against the Russians: "By being aggressive on their half we tried to prevent their pivot from being active with the ball. Our plan worked very well, Vrhovec did the most, but he was also helped out by Fetić and Čeh. Unfortunately, we received the first goal after just a tiny loss of concentration. As the match continued we had nothing more to wait for and decided to take our chance and play without a goalie. We focused all our strength on the attack but failed to equalize. I’m very proud of our boys, despite the loss. They poured a lot of sweat."
The Brazilians can’t fight with such desire
Russia’s two goals were scored by two out of the four naturalized Brazilians in their team, Eder Lima and Robinho. So how is it possible for an (half) amateur Slovenian national futsal team to equally play against the European and world vice-champions? "In those kinds of teams some players can’t give the things we can, as we fight for our coat-of-arms with pride and great desire. We make up for what we lack with a fighting spirit, desire and zeal. Of course, we too have certain qualities. If not, we wouldn’t have been able to play like we did," replied the Slovenian team captain.