Fabio Capello sends his side out at the Nelson Mandela Bay Stadium tomorrow afternoon with his opposite number warning that, whereas Slovenia pinch themselves at being on the verge of the knockout phase, England's weighty reputation demands they progress to the second round.
Matjaz Kek has steered a new generation of Slovenian players to the country's second World Cup finals and, impressively, to the summit of Group C with four points from their opening two fixtures. A draw would propel the smallest nation in the tournament into the last 16, most likely at England's expense, though management and playing staff are preaching realism.
• 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 more"We are aware of the significance of this match both for England and Slovenia, and the stakes are very high," Kek said. "But England have to get into the second round and Slovenia only wish to get into the second round. That's our wish. The quality of the England side is still high, regardless of what's happened in this tournament so far. They are still the favourites and also one of the favourites to win the World Cup at the very end, so we have a huge challenge ahead of us.
"But we, too, want to go as far as we can and we are not afraid. We have shown in our previous matches that we can take on anyone. We've played with great quality and a style that has stood out in this group. The stakes are high for all teams here to get into the second round and this is a huge match ahead of us. We have made such an effort to get here, a lot of willpower and courage. I was never sure that England and the USA were definitely going to progress into the knockout phase before the tournament. We have shown they still are not."
Slovenia's only previous World Cup appearance, in 2002, was wrecked by the talismanic forward Zlatko Zahovic's clash with the coach, Srecko Katanec, following their loss to Spain in the opening fixture, an incident that deflected their challenge and from which they never truly recovered. They have been far more of a coherent threat in South Africa, with players such as Robert Koren, recently released by West Bromwich Albion, and the midfielder Valter Birsa excelling.
The team's form has displayed why they were able to eliminate Guus Hiddink's Russia in a qualification play-off last year and impressed at times in losing a friendly 2-1 at Wembley last September, though reaching the second phase would still represent a staggering achievement. "It would mean a lot," said Kek. "It would be a terrific success for all of us, reaching the second round. We've got a good starting point at the top of the group with a game to play, and some people will find that unexpected to see us up there.
"But we are a confident, courageous side and we will be able to face up to England. Slovenia can do that. We are top of Group C, after all. We will go out there and play our own game, the style that has been so successful so far. We are an attacking side and we want to score goals, and we'll try and do that again. Why would we change our strategy now? I wouldn't know how to go out there and play for a draw against a side like England.
"Our challenge is to get to the knockout phase. It is an additional motivation to play against a team like England who have been so big. Most fans at the stadium will be in favour of England but we have also shown that we can play very well in the face of so much opposition. We can show the world that Slovenia deserved to get to the World Cup and can get into the second round. If we play to our potential, we can achieve this."