Slovenia set to provide November opposition for Republic of Ireland
First meeting between the two countries will come four days before trip to Poland
Slovenia coach Srecko Katanec expected to bring his side to Dublin next month. Photograph: Srdjan Zivulovic/Reuters
Slovenia are set to pay their first ever visit to Dublin with the FAI expected to confirm over coming days that Srecko Katenic’s side will provide the opposition on Friday November 15th, the first of what had been hoped would be World Cup play-off dates for the side.
The association has already announced that Ireland will play Poland four days later in Poznan.
Like Ireland, the Slovenians are licking their wounds after failing to make even the play-offs, with Iceland having beaten them to second place in a group won by Switzerland.
They finished ahead of Norway and Albania, though, and having taken 12 points out of a possible 15 in their last five games – Switzerland away was their only defeat - there is a clear sense that things are back on track after a hugely problematic start to the campaign that prompted a change of manager with Katenic, who guided the team to both Euro 2000 and the World Cup two years later, returning to take charge again.
His team currently lies 30th in the Fifa world rankings, well above Ireland’s 60th, and includes players drawn from a fair mix of leagues including some of Europe’s biggest – Spain, Germany and Italy – but also some rather more far flung like Japan, Azerbaijan and Israel, in a addition to handful who are locally based, almost exclusively with Maribor.
Inter Milan goalkeeper Samir Handanovic, PSV striker Tim Matavz and Milan midfielder Valter Birsa are amongst those likely to feature in what will be the first encounter between the two sides.
It remains unclear whether there is any chance that a new manager will be in place to take charge of the Ireland team for the game and it is looking highly unlikely at this stage that there will be one to name the squad by the required date, but it is believed that at least one of the candidates for the job has been told that a decision should be taken by the association within the the next two weeks.
Whether Mick McCarthy is one of those candidates remains unclear, with the Ipswich Town manager hinting that he remains interested in a return to the Ireland role but insisting that he has yet to be approached by the FAI.
“I’m not ruling myself in or out,” he told reporters at a Portman Road press conference. “I haven’t been asked.”