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Slovenia beat Malta to stay in play for 2018 World Cup

Ljubljana, 10 June - The Slovenian national football team defeated Malta 2:0 (1:0) in the qualifiers for the 2018 World Cup in Ljubljana on Saturday, taking an important step ahead of what could be a decisive encounter with group F second-place rivals Slovakia in September.

Ljubljana
Slovenian national football team ahead of a World Cup qualifier against Malta
Photo: Bor Slana/STA

Slovenia were dominant from the very beginning but needed a whole half to break the pesky Maltese, with Josip Iličić scoring in the stoppage time of the first period with a beautiful one-on-one action.

The 7,000 fans in Stožice Arena also saw Slovenia as the dominant team in the second half, but the home team had no real opportunities until the 84th minute, when veteran Milivoje Novaković scored his 32th goal for the national team.

This was the farewell game for the 38-year-old, who yesterday announced an end to his successful career. He is retiring as the second-best scorer for the national team and with a total of 80 appearances for Slovenia.

While it was not hard to beat the team that is dead last in group F which prior to the match had no points from five games, Slovenia will face a tough challenge in the next qualifier on 1 September on the road against Slovakia.

Slovakia are one of Slovenia's direct rivals for the second place in the group that leads to the additional play-off round. England have all but secured the first place and a direct spot in the 2018 World Cup in Russia.

zm/ke
© STA, 2017