Ever present Handanovic is tower between posts

LJUBLJANA (Reuters) - Goalkeeper Samir Handanovic is the only squad member to have played every minute of Slovenia's 2010 World Cup qualifying campaign, and he kept a clean sheet in seven of the 12 matches on the road to South Africa.

The 25-year-old has been a regular starter for his country since 2004 after moving to Italian side Udinese from Domzale.

He is regarded as one of the most talented keepers in Serie A, having signed an improved five-year contract with Udinese in 2007 after spending the previous three seasons on loan at Treviso, Lazio and Rimini.

Handanovic is an excellent shot-stopper who is also very good at dealing with crosses and coming off his line.

His cousin Jasmin Handanovic plays for Italian second division Mantova and is his understudy in the national team.

He played only three games for Rimini and one for Lazio before his talent came to the fore in the 2006-07 season when he shone at Serie B side Rimini.

The club finished fifth and had the fourth best defense in the second division largely thanks to Handanovic's ability to marshal the defense and produce outstanding performances.

He returned to Udinese in 2007 and helped them to get a UEFA Cup spot. Slovenia's chances of reaching the last 16 in South Africa depend on Handanovic being in top form as much as on the scoring prowess of Milivoje Novakovic and midfield dynamo Valter Birsa.

(Editing by Robert Woodward)