Game Day for Slovenia-United States! Get in the mood with this little gem from late Slovenian-American polka legend Frankie Yankovic and his non-related moniker buddy Weird Al. They filmed this spoof for the 1986 Grammys.
A berth in the second round is likely on the line when the Yanks face Slovenia tomorrow. So what do we know about Slovenia? Well, it’s a country of over 2 million people that would rank as the fifth largest American city. It won a 10-day war for independence from the former Yugoslavia in 1991 (translation: don’t mess…). Slovenia apparently has a lovely capital city in Ljubljana if this description is anything to go by. And LA Laker Sasha Vuja?i?, who hit the championship-clinching free throws last night in Game 7 of the NBA Finals is Slovenian. (Wait, bad omen?)
So how did they get to South Africa? They finished second to Slovakia in their European qualifying group but then won a play-off over heavily favored Russia. They don’t score a lot of goals, they don’t have major stars, but they appear to defend well and execute their system to get results. It will take patience to break them down and score.
Rather than give you a lengthy breakdown, let me point you to SI’s Grant Wahl, Ives Galarcep, and ESPN’s Jeff Carlisle.
Two things to watch and a prediction:
1) Line-Up Shuffle?
Will Bob Bradley dance with who brung him? Or will we see Jose Torres take Ricardo Clark’s spot in the midfield? Or perhaps Maurice Edu? Both Edu and Torres are seen as more creative offensively than Clark, and goals are needed. Will Findley partner Altidore up front or will Buddle get a start? Personally, I’d love to see Torres start this match and stay with Altidore and Findley up front. Conventional wisdom suggests he won’t make more than two adjustments to the line-up that drew with England.
Would a loss devastate American chances to advance to the second round? Yes, unless England has about five more ‘Hand of Clod’ moments. Would a tie be the worst thing in the world? No, but then we would have to beat Algeria and sweat out goal difference. Would a win put us in the clear? No, but no one’s expecting Slovenia to beat England or the United States to lose to Algeria either.
Given that we always seem to give up a goal, I’m going with 2-1 United States. It will take a lot of patience to break down a solid Slovenian defense, but I’m trusting Donovan and Dempsey to create on the wings. Donovan has a goal in him tomorrow. But remember after the game is played and the lights go down, our countries are united by polka.