No sooner had Slovenia's coach, Srecko Katanec, distanced himself from a diatribe that could have come straight from Roy Keane's book of etiquette than he was being banished here yesterday from the bench while his team slumped out of their first World Cup finals.
Slovenia's second successive defeat in Group B, to South Africa, means that they cannot now fill one of the top two places, whatever the outcome of their final match against Paraguay in Sogwipo next Wednesday.
The booking of Ales Ceh in front of the bench for feigning injury after a tussle with Quinton Fortune led to Katanec's heated argument with the fourth official, who promptly sent him packing.
The coach substituted Zlatko Zahovic, a cult figure in Slovenian football, after 42 minutes. With Ceh and Miran Pavlin sharing the Benfica player's playmaking duties, Slovenia were no better, certainly not until Katanec played what was effectively his last card with a double substitution after 59 minutes.
Only then did a drab match spring belatedly to life.
It was the kind of game that deserved the winning goal it got. After three minutes, Fortune curled in a free-kick that cleared the Slovenian defenders. The unmarked Siyabonga Nomvethe leapt up and the ball bounced off his knee past goalkeeper Marko Simeunovic. Fortune, later to be named man of the match despite hobbling off after 83 minutes, combined in a subsequent move that led to Benedict McCarthy finishing weakly.
Slovenia threatened only once before the interval, when Milenko Acimovic – who will play for Spurs next season – drove a powerful shot just too high following a meandering run from Dzoni Novak. Slovenia's chances were not helped either by the premature exit of Sebastjan Cimirotic, their scorer against Spain.
Lucas Radebe, the central defender who did not figure at all for Leeds last season, started the move that led to McCarthy testing Simeunovic before the angle of post and bar prevented him from scoring with a header. Twice more the goalkeeper kept him out before, going for goal yet again from close range, McCarthy was hurt by Zeljko Milinovic's block tackle and forced out of the game.
Slovenia looked menacing when two of Katanec's substitutes made their presences felt. Spasoje Bulajic was involved in the build-up leading to Nastja Ceh's header that brought the save of the game from Andre Arendse. But that was one of the game's very few highlights.
South Africa 1 Slovenia 0
Half-time: 1-0 Attendance: 47,226
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