Slovenia's historic Euro 2024 run bittersweet for coach Kek

Slovenia Matjaz Kek hailed a historic Euro 2024 from his side despite bowing out on penalties to <a class="link " href="" data-i13n="sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link" data-ylk="slk:Portugal;sec:content-canvas;subsec:anchor_text;elm:context_link;itc:0">Portugal</a> (Kirill KUDRYAVTSEV)

Slovenia boss Matjaz Kek hopes his side's run to the last 16 at Euro 2024 will be the launching pad for future success after a heart-breaking exit on penalties to Portugal.

Kek was shown a red card in extra-time after Portugal were awarded a spot-kick that Jan Oblak saved from Cristiano Ronaldo.

But it was Portuguese goalkeeper Diogo Costa who proved to be the hero in the shoot-out after the 120 minutes ended scoreless.

Costa saved all three Slovenian penalties from Josip Ilicic, Jure Balkovec and Benjamin Verbic.

"We feel a bitterness, with so much sweetness on the other hand," Kek said after Slovenia's first appearance in the knockout stages of a major tournament ended in frustration.

"We do hope this tournament will be a starting point for the future of Slovenian football."

Underdogs Slovenia were left to wonder what might have been if their highly-rated striker Benjamin Sesko had beaten Costa when clean through in the dying embers of extra-time.

But they still have memories to cherish after holding England 0-0 to progress from the group stage following gritty 1-1 draws with Serbia and Denmark.

"For what we have said is our goal for this tournament, I think we have exceeded expectations," added Kek.

"This is the reality of Slovenian football. The players are disciplined, motivated and aggressive.

"They love the badge, and in the end, they have quality."