New Zealand could hold Slovenia in battle of the underdogs
Slovenia vs New Zealand, kick-off Friday 7.45pm
New Zealand may be a whopping 2,000/1 to win the World Cup, but having just beaten Serbia, the All Whites are ready to cause another stir against Slovenia.
Even after their 1-0 win over Serbia, a New Zealand victory against England’s Group C opponents is an enticing 6/1.
And while the All Whites are 1/50 to be eliminated at the group stage, their defensive form offers reasons for optimism, as they have kept three clean sheets in their last five matches.
Skippered by Blackburn centre-back Ryan Nelsen, the team has a solid core and, with this in mind, a draw is temptingly priced at 3/1.
New Zealand will need to be watchful of Robert Koren, as the recently released West Brom midfielder is the creative hub of this Slovenia side.
Slovenian hopes of scoring will rest on 6ft 4in Koln striker Milivoje Novakovic, who struck five goals during qualifying and has amassed 14 goals in 37 international appearances.
And while Slovenia qualified for the 2002 World Cup, their major tournament pedigree is questionable as they lost all three group matches and exited at the first hurdle.
Matjaz Kek’s side could be a little rusty having not played since March, and if New Zealand can overachieve as they did against Serbia, this tie could prove to be closer than some expect.