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Dec 5, 2009

Slovenia target Rooney wind-up

Wayne Rooney will be targeted by Slovenia who will attempt to wind up the England striker at next summer's World Cup.

• See the World Cup draw in full
• Complete World Cup fixture list
• World Cup draw: Soccernet says

Slovenia defender Bostjan Cesar claims the Manchester United player deliberately tried to injure him in the friendly between the sides in September and is now out for revenge.

Cesar, who had a loan spell at West Brom before signing for French club Grenoble, was dumbfounded when Rooney appeared to foul him only for the referee to award a penalty to England.

Cesar told goal.com: "I don't have fond memories of that game. The whole of Europe knows what Rooney did. He deliberately tried to injure me. It's not sportsmanlike. I have a clear conscience, but I doubt it that he has one.

"We will give our all to make the game against us an unpleasant experience for Rooney and his team-mates. England are the favourites, but we are confident that we can beat anybody.''

Zlatko Zahovic, Slovenia's star at the 2002 World Cup, was similarly dismissive. Zahovic, who has now retired, told Slovenian TV: "For me England are not one of the favourites. They are a team full of stars and egos. They cannot possibly spend a month and a half together without friction.''

Meanwhile, Slovenia coach Matjaz Kek says his team will draw on knocking out Russia in the World Cup play-offs and will not fear anyone after being drawn to play England, the USA and Algeria in next year's finals.

Slovenia were beaten 2-1 at Wembley in September but Kek says there will be no feelings of inferiority when the two meet again in Port Elizabeth on June 23. "As far as I am concerned this is one of the toughest draws we could have had but we were better in both games against Russia and when we play England this time, it will very different to Wembley.

"It will be the last game in the group and you can take it we will be very motivated to win if our chances of qualifying are still alive. People say we have nothing to lose but I don't subscribe to that. You always have something to lose."

It would be easy to dismiss the threat of Slovenia but any side that denies a Guus Hiddink team a World Cup spot deserves to be taken seriously. Slovenia have made something of a habit of upsetting the odds and what they lack in class they make up for in spirit.

"We are a small country but we believe that when we are well prepared we can take on anyone," says Kek. "It's good for football that a country like ours gets to the finals. We play with great heart and no-one can say we were lucky to be here. Having said that I genuinely think it could be England's time."

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