The bait was dangled but Slovenia's manager refused to bite. No, he did not want to discuss England's footballers; or how they had played in the tournament so far; or the spirit in their camp.

No, Matjaz Kek just wanted to concentrate on his team. "Our whole nation is together following our success, it's a big thing back home," he reminded everyone. "They are very proud of us and we want to continue making them proud."

• Follow the Guardian's World Cup team on Twitter• Sign up to play our great Fantasy Football game• Stats centre: Get the lowdown on every player• The latest team-by-team news, features and moreThere was, admittedly, a generous sentence for Fabio Capello, whom Kek described as a "big gentleman – I have so much respect for him as a coach", but otherwise he dealt smartly and efficiently with what the swollen English media pack threw at him. As a tactical blueprint for his team in Wednesday afternoon's game against England it was perfect.

However, in an interview in today's Ekipa newspaper, Kek is more revealing, telling a reporter, Andrej Miljkovic, that: "It's a do-or-die match for England, because it's a game they can't imagine not winning. Qualification was a goal for us, and now it's a wish, but nothing more than that, so maybe that is to our advantage."

"My team has recovered from the 2-2 draw with the USA but there are still mixed emotions," Kek also admits. "My players will always know what happened last Friday but they have decided to put it behind them. The regret will be big if we don't qualify but, if we get through, it will be forgotten."

Slovenia have one major fitness worry ahead of Wednesday's game with the centre-back Marko Suler, who suffered damaged ribs against the USA, so far failing to respond to treatment. If he fails to make it, Matej Mavric will step in. "Usually I never speak about my first 11 but this time I can say that Mavric will definitely play if Suler doesn't make it," said Kek with a rare smile. "Perhaps I will give this information because Fabio Capello has told everyone that Matthew Upson will start."

But mostly the language in the Slovenia camp was of cautious understatement. The Slovenia captain, Robert Koren, hitherto open and jokey with the English press, was particularly measured. "We know that England are a very good team," he said. "They have brilliant players. But we will not be thinking much about England, we will concentrate on our team.

"I watched their games against the USA and Algeria and I saw good things and bad things. They didn't show the type of football we expect of them. It gives us some hope. But we will see on Wednesday."

A draw will be enough to push Slovenia through to the knockout stages of a major tournament for the first time in their short history. Even a defeat will not necessarily kill their chances. But Valter Birsa, whose dash and daring has guided many of his team's best moments, says his side must focus only on getting a result.

"There is no point in looking for favours elsewhere because we shouldn't need or expect lucky breaks in matches we are not involved in," he said. "We have to try to stifle out England the same way their previous two opponents did and be patient."

Birsa also warned his team-mates that Capello's side will improve on their abject displays so far, adding: "It would be foolish to think England are not a top-level team after underperforming twice under heavy pressure from their fans.

"They came here with the ambition to win the World Cup and going out in the group stage would be a disaster for them, so I am sure they will improve beyond recognition for us." Perhaps Virsa is right to be wary. Right now, however, few England fans would share his conviction.