Euro 2024: Slovenia take inspiration at Euros from other national sports stars

Slovenia have also played at two World Cups -- in 2002 and 2010 -- and are aiming to spring a surprise over Denmark in their opening game in Stuttgart on Sunday

Published - June 17, 2024 01:32 am IST - Stuttgart, Germany

 Slovenia’s Timi Max Elsnik in action with Denmark’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg

Slovenia’s Timi Max Elsnik in action with Denmark’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg | Photo Credit: Reuters

Slovenia's Timi Max Elsnik said the success of other sporting compatriots like two-time Tour de France champion Tadej Pogacar and NBA star Luka Doncic gives the team plenty of motivation going into Euro 2024.

Olimpija Ljubljana midfielder Elsnik is one of three home-based players in the squad as Slovenia return to the European Championship for the first time since making their debut at the tournament 24 years ago.

"Slovenia is a phenomenon when it comes to sports," said Elsnik.

"Football maybe wasn't the most important sport the last couple of years, but we have reached the Euros and maybe it will rejoin other sports in Slovenia again."

Slovenia have also played at two World Cups -- in 2002 and 2010 -- and are aiming to spring a surprise over Denmark in their opening game in Stuttgart on Sunday.

"The number of messages you get, the faces of people in the street show everything, the Euros mean a lot to the people," said Elsnik.

"Slovenia is a small country and every sporting success is important for the country."

They will also face Serbia and England in a challenging Group C, but Elsnik insists they are not in Germany just to make up the numbers.

"Teams such as ours have been waiting for too long to participate in the Euros. We have reached our goal by coming here already but this is not the end," he said.

"The best teams in Europe are here and we are among them. I don't think it should be a burden, we shouldn't feel too much pressure. Everyone will give their utmost, but we shouldn't forget to enjoy these moments."

"If we show the right character, I think we can be successful," Elsnik added.

"We'll go into the match full steam and we don't need extra motivation, it's already very high."

Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand identified RB Leipzig forward Benjamin Sesko as Slovenia's primary threat after his five goals in qualifying.

However, Slovenia boss Matjaz Kek sees the 21-year-old as "one of the pieces of the bigger pictures".

"He is one of the cogs in the machine," said Kek, who can also call upon former Atalanta star Josip Ilicic.

The 36-year-old Ilicic scored on his Slovenia comeback last week, having not played for his country since November 2021 after suffering with mental health issues.

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