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Underdogs Slovenia relish 'milestone' battle with Portugal

FRANKFURT, Germany : Slovenia plan to enjoy their last-16 Euro 2024 match with Portugal, ranked 51 places higher then them, come what may but believe they can pull off a shock in their first ever knockout game of a major tournament.

Portugal lost to another low-ranked team, Georgia, in their last game of the group stage, but in contrast to that match they will be fielding their strongest side against Slovenia at the Frankfurt Arena on Monday night.

"This is a new milestone for the Slovenian team - but we are not done yet ... we can surprise," said midfielder Adam Gnezda Cerin at a news conference.

"I think tomorrow will be a beautiful moment for everyone. These are the games you dream of as a kid ... I hope we can stay in Germany a few more days."

Teams like Slovenia and Georgia reaching the knockouts has shown how the quality gap is narrowing, Gnezda added.

"There are no small teams any more, it's a very tight competition. Everyone can play football. And the lesser lights, so to say, are playing amazingly well," he said.

"Everyone can beat everyone in such a tournament. I think this is something that makes football the beautiful game. Because an outsider can win a match ... I think we can continue in this track tomorrow."

Coach Matjaz Kek said he was delighted to have brought joy to Slovenia fans after three draws in a tough group against Denmark, Serbia and England saw them progress.

"They should revel in this, they should enjoy this. Finally Slovenia has seen football euphoria as well, because it has been too long," he said. "My players are really happy they can play such a match tomorrow."