Who is Gorica? Profiling Panionios' Europa League Opponents
Panionios enter the fray in the Europa League next week. They will take on Slovenian opposition in the form of ND Gorica. AGONAsport’s George Tsitsonis breaks down the club and what Panionios can expect from this lesser known side.
Gorica was founded in 1947 as FD Gorica. The club has been known as Nogometno Drustvo (ND) Gorica since 2003. Gorica are one of the most successful clubs in Slovenia in recent times with four Slovenian PrvaLiga titles and three Slovenian Cups won. Known as the Vrtnice (The Roses, one of which is emblazoned on their emblem) as well as the Plavo-Beli (The Blue and Whites) for their team colors, Gorica are one of only three teams in Slovenian football history to never be relegated from the top flight.
The club hail from the town of Nova Gorica and play their matches at the Nova Gorica Sports Park. Gorica are no strangers to European football competitions, specifically the Europa League. However, they have struggled to make an impact in continental play. Before this season. Gorica were knocked out in Europe at the first time of asking. Their best run in Europa was actually in the Champions’ League qualifiers of the 2004-05 season. Then they defeated Flora Tallinn 7-3 on aggregate before surprising FC Copenhagen with a 6-2 aggregate victory, which including a 5-0 home win. Unfortunately, the club could not get to the Group Stage as they ran into Monaco. Outmatched against a team that the season before had gone all the way to the Champions’ League, Gorica went down 9-0 on aggregate.
Stadium: Nova Gorica Sports Park (capacity: 3,100)
Titles won: 4 Slovenian PrvaLiga Titles, 3 Slovenian Cup Titles
Coach: Miran Srebrnic
The current Gorica boss is a flag-bearer for the club. The former Slovenian international played for Gorica for fourteen seasons amassing nearly 400 appearances for the club as a player. He has since gone on to manage the club, first as a caretaker in 2008 to permanent boss on a few different occasions over the last decade.
Players To Watch
Two players for Panionios to watch out for are Miran Burgic and Rifet Kapic. Both players were selected to the 2016-17 Slovenian PrvaLiga Team of the Season. Burgic is a former Slovenian international with five caps to his name. The 32-year-old striker has played in Sweden, Austria, Cyprus, and Israel. Burgic began his career at Gorica before moving abroad and then moving back to his first club in 2015. Since 2012, his goals have tailed off, however he did manage to score 14 last season, good enough for 5th in the top flight. AEK were supposedly interested in his services back in 2008.
Kapic is a Bosnian wide player who is coming off a strong season. The 22-year-old had his best campaign in a Gorica shirt last season when he chipped in with 6 goals and 7 assists. He looks to have picked up where he left off last season with his brace against Shirak in the first leg.
Last Season Recap
Though they were bouncing between 4th and 6th place for most of the season, a late surge saw Gorica nab 2nd place on the final matchday. The team enjoyed a superb finish to the PrvaLiga season as they went undefeated from mid-March on. They finished even with Olimpija Ljubljana on points, but took 2nd spot thanks to a better head-to-head record.
There was disappointment in the Slovenian Cup as they were bounced out at the quarter-final stage at the hands of Maribor. In Europe at the start of the season, Maccabi Tel-Aviv disposed of the Slovenian side 4-0 on aggregate in the 1st Qualifying Round of the Europa League.
This Year In Europe
Entering the Europa League in the 1st Qualifying Round, Gorica defeated FC Shirak 4-2 on aggregate. The Vrtnice won the away leg 2-0, but then found themselves down 2-1 in the 2nd leg at home. They managed to keep their composure though and rallied to draw the match 2-2 and secure passage to the next round to face Panionios.
How They Play
Gorica usually employ a 4-4-2 or 4-3-2-1 and concentrate on creating attacks on the flanks, specifically with Kapic, though their forwards have also been known to try and interchange by getting into the wide positions. In previous seasons, the defense has been suspect however there have been much improvement in that area in 2017. That said, this past week the Slovenian side dealt away their best defender, Matija Boben, to FC Rostov. Kapic remains the team’s main danger man with his skill and unpredictability. In goal, 21-year-old Grega Sorcan is one to watch as he slowly tries to break into the national team having represented Slovenia at every age level thus far.
Prior History Versus Greek Clubs
Gorica has twice faced off against Greek opposition. The first time was against Panathinaikos in the 1st Round of the UEFA Cup back in the 1999-00 season and the Greek side were comfortable 3-0 aggregate winners. Against AEK, also in the 1st Round of the UEFA Cup in 2004-05, Gorica fared better, but still went down 2-1 on aggregate.